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Franchise Owner Gives Back to the Bahamas

The story of how one Canadian Expedia CruiseShipCenters owner helped his home nation after Hurricane Dorian.

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Chris Ashton is an Expedia® CruiseShipCenters® franchise owner in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. He was born in Nassau, Bahamas and moved to Canada in 1975. His parents and much of his family still live in the Bahamas, and he has always had a special place in his heart for his place of birth.

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On September 1, 2019, the Northern Bahamas was hit violently by Hurricane Dorian, a horrific storm with recorded winds of almost 200 mph that sat over the region for nearly three days. This hurricane is regarded as the worst natural disaster to strike the Bahamas in recorded history. The devastation was catastrophic, and the death toll is still rising.

Chris wanted to do something tangible to help his fellow Bahamians and needed to figure out how to do this from his home far away in Canada. He knew that the Bahamian survivors needed the basic essentials to get back on their feet -- items like toiletries, clean water, food and household items.

The first step to getting a campaign underway was to team up with a group of fellow Canadians with strong ties to the Bahamas who had already launched a GoFundMe page that raised nearly $60,000. Chris also set up his franchise office as a Dorian Relief Center. He spread the word that he was accepting donations and goods by conducting local and national media interviews. His community started participating, and his office was filled with supplies within a week.

Chris then had to figure out how to get the supplies to the Bahamas. He rented a 26-foot truck and loaded it to the top. He met up with the team in Niagara Falls, and together they filled a 53-foot trailer full of relief goods and supplies that went on a journey of more than 1,500 miles to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The team then packed up the supplies onto 37 palettes to be transported by ferry to Grand Bahama. During his time on the island, Chris volunteered with the World Central Kitchen and Royal Caribbean, cooking meals for thousands of people while he waited for the supplies to be made available for distribution by the local Rotary Club.

He returned to Canada to run his business in late September. Since then, the Canadian team (now known as the "EH Team") has sent two more 40-foot containers of supplies down to the Bahamas. Chris and the team just returned in December from a week-long campaign called Christmas for the Kids of Grand Bahama, during which they distributed more than 2,500 gifts to girls and boys at the local primary schools.

Chris also received support from his franchisor. The franchise supported Chris selling "Bahamas Strong" T-shirts at their recent annual convention and raised funds to purchase the toys. They also introduced him to key contacts at the cruise lines that offered support for the campaigns and broadcasted his fundraising story on their social media networks.

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