Bryan and Sarah Baeumler of ‘Island of Bryan’: Hurricane relief ‘makes us very proud to be Canadian’

Click to play video: 'HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler launches GoFundMe to raise money for Bahamas hurricane relief'
HGTV’s Bryan Baeumler launches GoFundMe to raise money for Bahamas hurricane relief
WATCH: Bryan Baeumler launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for hurricane relief in the Bahamas after it was hit by Hurricane Dorian. – Sep 3, 2019

Bryan and Sarah Baeumler started a GoFundMe page in September 2019 to raise funds for hurricane Dorian relief with the goal of $10,000 —but they received over $180K instead.

The stars of HGTV Canada’s Island of Bryan say the money raised went directly to places most in need on the Bahamas’ Out Islands — regions that Dorian hit hardest. Their resort Caerula Mar worked with organizations such as government, the Red Cross and other agencies to help with recovery.

Click to play video: 'Island of Bryan returns for Season 2'
Island of Bryan returns for Season 2

The Baeumler family also provided assistance first hand, too.

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READ MORE: ‘Island of Bryan’ Season 2: Bryan Baeumler says ‘perspective of life really changed’

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Global News sat down with Bryan and Sarah at the Caerula Mar Club, which officially opened as of February 2020 in Andros, to discuss the money raised through their GoFundMe, giving back to the community and much more.

Global News: You two raised over $180K for Hurricane Dorian relief and the GoFundMe goal was originally $10K. Did you ever expect to raise so much money? 
Bryan: I didn’t think we would raise that much because there’s a lot going on in the world. There’s a lot of fundraisers, a lot of people looking for support and raising funds for things beyond our sight-line and over the horizon. It’s not always easy but we wanted to do something to help the people affected by Hurricane Dorian because some places were completely destroyed.

We’re part of the community here as well and a lot of our staff and their families were directly affected. It was great to see so many Canadians, Americans and international fans throwing five to ten dollars here and there. It was amazing to watch how quickly it happened and a lot of people came to us and said it was a great thing we were doing and thanked us. But I told them to thank everybody that jumped on board. It makes us very proud to be Canadian and I think it’s the reason why, when people travel, they put that Canadian flag on their bag because if your neighbour’s hurting and you can soothe that pain a little bit, that’s what we do. In the overall scheme of things and the cost, it made a small impact but it made a huge impact to the people that it did help.

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Sarah: And it will continue to [help]. I think that was one of the important things for us when we started the GoFundMe — we thought this is what we can do, lets get that started. Then we spent time actually talking to the community, talking to people in Abaco and here, especially on our island, understanding the plans that need to be put in place and what the future plans look like.  It’s not as simple as taking all of the money raised and just dumping it right now. It’s more like, what does it look like six months from now? What does the island look like a year from now? Once some of these larger government organizations pull out of the Bahamas, there’s still a ton of support that needs to happen after the fact.
We wanted to make sure we looked at the funds raised and set some aside for immediate relief now, for search and rescue; and [some] for three months down the road … that’s going to be used for part of the rebuilding and restructuring. I think for us it was something that we’ve never done before and never had experience doing. We were put in this position and it changed gears here on the hotel, from the filming and from everything. It really became secondary and we focused on the country as a whole and what we could do to help.

How did the money help the regions hit hardest by the hurricane?
Sarah: In various different ways, everything from immediate supplies that we were able to garnish from some of our suppliers at home as well that they were able to get here quite quickly. Food and water were a big thing but one of the things that I think was the most impressive is the ability to get people off the island so you can send as much as you can to Abaco and Freeport. It was also important to get as many of those families to other family islands where there is still some infrastructure that the island as a whole can help care for.

Bryan: Sarah put together baby supplies and diapers and things that weren’t there so that was great. Moving individual families and finding them housing somewhere and taking care of that for a year for each family to give them the chance to catch their breath.

Sarah: The amount of orphaned children was something that I think, as a parent, Bryan and I quickly realized the immediate need for. The shelters took most of the children they were able to find and rescue but then there’s just orphanages full of children. We worked with a couple companies back home that provided an abundance of children’s supplies that I brought down in suitcases. I flew home, collected suitcases upon suitcases and brought them back down with me. [Being] able to deliver them myself … the supply chain was also disrupted —it’s not as easy as just boxing things up and sending them. Sometimes it requires a person to go and collect and distribute.
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Click to play video: 'HGTV Canada star’s hurricane GoFundMe raises $70,000'
HGTV Canada star’s hurricane GoFundMe raises $70,000

What was the response from the community after you raised the money?
Bryan: The people in the community and the staff here were kind of in shock. They are happy for the help and appreciative and they show that appreciation to the people that donated and helped. But there were moments of PTSD from the families coming in and a lot of people have lost family members. But the coolest thing to see was, not only the funds, materials, transport and donated things, but now you’re seeing some of the employees here at the hotel who were able to bring their families over. Now the employees are supporting and helping their families. The Bahamian people are very caring, they take care of their neighbours, family and friends. It’s just nice to see that all paid forward and continuing.

Sarah, you were telling me earlier about teaching the staff important life skills like reading while training them at Caerula Mar. Can you talk a bit about that? 
Sarah: It’s been interesting as well: the opportunities that maybe some people had to look for, [like] employment on other islands; it’s been wonderful that they could return to their home island. During those key working years we often we see that parents have to leave the island and leave their children with grandparents to go and find work elsewhere. To be able to provide that here and have that sense that we’re bringing some families back together by providing employment is incredible.
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Bryan: Everybody wants to come home. You won’t see a lot of people over the age of 24 here because they finish school and go off to find a job somewhere else. Later when their parents age and they have kids of their own, they come back to the island to have their family. We’ve seen a lot of people move home because there’s now some more opportunities and things to do on the island.

Sarah: I think to hopefully provide this concept of entrepreneurship and growth on this island has made a big difference. We’ve seen some staff that have said they want to start their own business and get a craft shop open or start a daiquiri stand. We’ve said that’s incredible and encourage them to use this opportunity as the seed to help grow other businesses on the island. Hopefully they will continue to do that and that’s why we encourage our guests to really explore the island and support local people and businesses because that’s the way this island will continue to grow and develop.

Bobo’s Cool Off is only a 10 minute bike ride from Caerula Mar. (Katie Scott/Global News).

What advice would you give to people who want to help in times of a national crisis just like you two did?
Bryan: Just do it!

Sarah: It honestly took a few minutes to register and get it started. When we first thought about the hurricane and we knew it wasn’t hitting our path, we really didn’t know the impact that our staff would feel. We didn’t know how emotionally devastating it would be to the country as a whole.

Bryan: I think the best for a lot of people is, whether you start a GoFundMe or whether you start a charity, fundraising or volunteering somewhere, the message is just do something. People should do something because for most people there will come a time in your life where you need help. You want to make sure that there’s people around that will be willing to help you. It’s just doing something, somewhere for someone. It doesn’t have to be in your backyard and doesn’t have to be on the other side of the world. It’s just putting some good energy out there and helping someone. We’ve all got a little more than we need.

Click to play video: '‘Island of Bryan’ sneak peek'
‘Island of Bryan’ sneak peek

(This interview has been edited and condensed)

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Island of Bryan Season 2 airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada.

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