The Young Philanthropists Making It ‘Cool to Care’ in the Virgin Islands

What does it take to be a philanthropist? It is more than just having the means to give money to charity; it’s an ardent desire to help improve the world around you. There are many people of means who, while they donate occasionally, don’t really qualify for the title of philanthropist.

Rich people of years past have often held on to most of their fortunes while alive, contributing it to charity only after death. This is the first time in world history that there have been so many young people donating their money to different causes, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. There are those around us who do make a point to try and make the world a better place – enter Brett “Mac” McClafferty, age 34, and Sunil Sharma, age 37. 

Both McClafferty and Sharma have been wildly successful in their respective professions; Mac McClafferty accumulating a fifteen-million-dollar net worth in the private equity and cryptocurrency markets, and Sunil Sharma – a Michelin Star Restaurant experienced chef – who once had a food cart on every corner of Manhattan. Together, this under-40 duo has made it their mission to give back to the place they now call home – the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

“I met Sunil at an eleven-course dinner at one of the hottest restaurants on the Island of St. Thomas, and we hit it off” said McClafferty, who’s McClafferty Family Foundation has pledged over $150,000 annually in college scholarships for high school graduates of U.S. Virgin Islands schools. 

According to McClafferty, the two are political opposites – McClafferty a Democrat and Sharma a Republican – but share a similar set of morals and a belief in charity. “Doing the right thing isn’t a liberal or conservative concept, it’s an American concept” Sharma added. 

The two undertook their first joint charitable cause when they covered the entire cost of a repast for a twenty-year-old woman who was murdered by a jealous boyfriend outside her place of work in St. Thomas. This homicide shook the island to its core, and McClafferty and Sharma stepped up to the plate with McClafferty covering the cost of the food needed to feed nearly one thousand guests, while Sharma catered the event at no cost to the family.

The pair were later appointed as civilian members of the Virgin Islands Community and Police Association, and have used their roles in the organization to focus on issues facing senior citizens and foster children. During the Christmas season of 2021, McClafferty and Sharma personally donated toys to every child under the care of the Virgin Islands Family Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides emergency shelter and services to families who are victims of crime and domestic violence.

The two are already working with civic organizations on future charitable events and causes, and do not see an end in sight to their philanthropic endeavors. 

“We aren’t doing this because we want to be viewed as philanthropists, I personally could care-a-less how people view me” says McClafferty. “This is about doing our part to protect, and give back to, the place we now call home. It’s about being a good neighbor. It’s about having the means to help, so we believe that we have an obligation to help.”

Sharma echoed that same sentiment by quoting a verse out of Luke 12:48, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

According to Bruce Flamon, President of the Virgin Islands Community and Police Association, the involvement of young people in the organization’s charitable initiatives has skyrocketed since McClafferty and Sharma became involved. “These young men have made it cool to care about your neighbors and about your community. Young people see these successful young men and want to be like them – and to be like them, you got to give back!” says Flamon, a retired police officer who also hosts the popular “C’Mon Man Radio Show” in the Virgin Islands.

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