A ‘Walk to Remember’
The walk is free, but donations are appreciated. Guests also can create a walking team and collect pledges. Entertainment this year will be provided by Darlene Ahuna and Doug Espejo & Boni Narito.
One of the highlights of the event is the “Lights of Remembrance,” where people can purchase and personalize a luminary in memory of loved ones.
More than 300 people attended last year’s Celebration of Life, and organizers say you almost have to be there to really understand what the event means to many families in our community.
“There are a lot of people who have never been to one, but it’s really a wonderful outlet that helps in people’s bereavement process — whether their loved one passed a month ago or 10 years ago,” says Hospice of Hilo development and education coordinator Lisa Kwee. “It’s therapeutic to spend time together decorating your lantern and being together. It’s a magical time for families, many of whom fly in to participate in this event.”
Just last year, HOH served more than 800 patients and their families, providing end-of-life and bereavement needs to the east and south areas of Hawaii County.
Kwee says she has seen firsthand how HOH can affect people’s lives in a positive way after Hospice helped her deal with the death of her sister-in-law on the mainland.
Most recently, Kwee got to see how HOH has impacted the keiki of Hilo as well.
It started first with Kamaha‘o Halemanu, 10, and his brother, Kahiau, 8.
They wanted to make a lemonade stand, so using lemons from their backyard, they set up a stand in their driveway. There wasn’t a lot of traffic in their neighborhood, but they made about $30 throughout the course of two Sundays.
When asked what they were going to do with their earnings, Kamaha‘o said, “Either fix our mailbox or donate it to Hospice.”
Hospice was there to care for his aunty in 2016 during her final days of life.
“They took care of her, and families, too, when their loved ones are about to go to a better place,” Kamaha‘o says. “I felt so inspired to do the lemonade stand for Hospice.”
But the Halemanu brothers didn’t stop with that first donation. Their swim coaches, Carla Spidell and Marie Bumatay, hosted their first “Swim for Charity” event to encourage their young students to use their skills to help others. The kids swam laps for 30 minutes without a break — longer than they ever had before — and collected monetary pledges for each lap completed.
“I see that the world is getting a whole lot darker, and I wanted the kids to do something positive with their skills and talents that would then help others,” Spidell says. “Even when it got really tough because they had to swim for a half-hour nonstop, they swam harder for their charities than they did for themselves. It made them realize there was no limit on what they could do.”
Four of Spidell and Bumatay’s students decided to take the money they earned from the swim event and give it to Hospice of Hilo.
The Halemanu brothers swam a combined 80 laps and raised more than $1,000. Danica Yanagisawa, 7, and her sister, Lexi, 4, also raised money for Hospice, swimming a combined 66 laps and raising $900.
“About four years ago, my brother, Ken, was in Hospice,” explains the girls’ father, Donn Yanagisawa. “They helped make sure he was as comfortable as he could be. I knew somebody was always right there to help him when I couldn’t be there. It’s important with anything you do in life that you have a support system.”
Yanagisawa says Danica still prays about her Uncle Ken every night and was all for donating her pledges to HOH.
“We prepped her ahead of time to swim with all she had, that they weren’t doing it for themselves but to help others,” he says.
Danica says, “It was hard and I was tired, but I was helping another family. (Hospice) helps families like my Uncle Ken. Donating the money made me feel proud and happy.”
Kwee says even the smallest donation can be magical, and she’s happy to see these island keiki with so much heart.
“It was a great thing these coaches did to inspire the kids to choose a charity of their choice and we’re deeply honored that they chose Hospice,” Kwee says. “What a way to encourage children to pay it forward.”
Adds Kamaha‘o, “It’s a really good feeling to give to other people.”
People come to the Celebration of Life for many different reasons.
“For some, gathering as a family to do the walk and to experience the luminaries is fun,” Kwee says. “For some, it’s a time to laugh and rejoice in life, enjoying the music, wonderful food and the warmth of the community. For others, it is more of a process of reflection and contemplation as they watch the luminaries promenade down the river.
“For many, it is like life: a combination of all of the above — the bitter and the sweet.”
Registration for the Celebration of Life starts at 3:30 p.m. Luminaries are $20 presale and $25 the day of the event. Those interested in registering for the walk or purchasing a lantern can do so online at www.Hospiceofhilo.org, by calling 969-1733 or by visiting the Hospice of Hilo sites at 1011 Waianuenue Ave. or 590 Kapiolani St.
Lanterns are launched on the Wailoa River during the 2016 Celebration of Life.
Kamaha’o and Kahiau Halemanu raised $1,000 for hospice through their lemonade stand and by swimming a combined total of 80 laps during the “Swim for Charity” event.
From left are Danica, Lexi, Lisa and Donn Yanagisawa. Danica and her sister, Lexi, raised money for hospice, swimming a combined 66 laps and raising $900.
Participants begin the 2016 Celebration of Life walk.