A ‘Walk to Re­mem­ber’

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - ISLAND BEAT - Katie Young YAMANAKA

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.

Photo: ANDREW HARA

Lan­terns are launched on the Wailoa River dur­ing the 2016 Cel­e­bra­tion of Life.

Cour­tesy pho­tos

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.

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