Entertainment

VIDEO: Shaggy tells why he's helping children's hospital

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Senior staff reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 31, 2013    

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IN his words, reggae/dancehall act Shaggy 'prefers to dig one hole 50-feet deep, than 50 holes one-foot deep'.

That, he says, explains his commitment to the Bustamante Hospital for Children, a cause he has supported for well over a decade.

This Saturday, January 4, will see the fourth staging of the popular Shaggy and Friends charity concert, which has, over the years, raised more than US$2 million for the country's only paediatric hospital.

His association with, and commitment to, the hospital began after accompanying producer Tony Kelly to the facility where Kelly's son was to be treated. While waiting on the youngster to be attended to, Shaggy started observing the surroundings and got talking with nurses and doctors who further explained the trying circumstances under which they operated.

That moved the It Wasn't Me artiste. Then and there, Shaggy made a vow to himself that if he was ever in a position to help, he would.

That position presented itself with the release and subsequent success of his album Hot Shot in 2000.

"At that point I was just a guy that was making a lot of money and decided, why not just cut a cheque? I remember walking in to the lady in charge, gave her the cheque and she asked me what was this for and I said it was for the hospital."

Shaggy has long forgotten the figure on that initial cheque, but his act of benevolence soon took root.

It would start with his band members taking the initiative to improve the physical surroundings of the hospital by sprucing up the gardens and starting a park at the hospital.

During one of his visits to check up on the work done by his bandmates, Shaggy met Dr Lambert Innis, head of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the hospital, who took him on a tour, pointing out some of the equipment that his initial cash donation had helped them procure. That would lead to more cheques from the entertainer and a string of emotional encounters with children and their parents.

"Once when we went back there and a gentleman touched me on the shoulder and asked me to come and see his daughter who was hooked up to one of the machines that we had bought. Not knowing what I would run into, I went over, and there was this little girl, Peach. That was his nickname for her. He had two daughters, one was Apple and the other one, Peach. She was an eight-year-old with a bullet stuck in her head. I was dumbfounded. I am the type of person who hates seeing a problem and don't know how to fix it, it really annoys me... and I felt helpless. There was nothing I could've done for this little girl. I held her hand and there's nothing I could do... it's one of the most terrible feelings," he related.

Unable to do anything to help Peach, Shaggy walked away from that experience with an even stronger conviction -- "Let's fix this facility up to be the best, that's the only thing I could have done at that point."

Out of that came the idea for the Shaggy and Friends Concert, which was first staged in 2009 and repeated in 2010 and 2012.

Proceeds from the last staging and the upcoming show will go towards furnishing a new cardiac unit under construction at the hospital and scheduled to be opened by March.

Yesterday, Dr Innis, who was also a guest at the Monday Exchange, explained that the unit will be outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and will also be the only one of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.

This year's show is being headlined by local songbird Tessanne Chin, who is making her first local stage appearance since winning NBC's talent contest The Voice on December 17.

Chin's win and her appearance on Shaggy & Friends has peaked the excitement for the show, resulting in a run on the higher-priced tickets, which have now sold out.

"I kinda expected the frenzy, but I think the frenzy went into overdrive once she [Chin] won, and this kinda puts us in a very good position," said Shaggy.

Fellow Jamaican artistes Assassin, Wayne Marshall, as well as American Matthew Schuler, who contested The Voice with Chin, all told the Monday Exchange that they were honoured to be a part of the effort to raise funds for the hospital.

"You hear about initiatives like this and you want to be a part of it, but I'm sitting here now and the real gravity of the situation hit me," Assassin said as he reflected on the needs of the hospital as related by Shaggy.

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