Congratulations to Our 2016 Award Winners!
It is tradition at Holiday Classic that we honor some very special people who have made great contributions to the Special Olympics Hawai’i organization. These individuals have gone above and beyond to make a difference in many lives, and we are very thankful for their support.
Please join us in celebration this year’s Special Olympics Hawai’i Outstanding Award Winners!
Outstanding Organization: Since 2007, Coach David Kaneshiro and the UH Hilo Women Basketball players have supported our East Hawai’i area basketball competition. Not only do we utilize their beautiful gym and baseball field for our competition, the girls help to run every aspect of the basketball tournament.
State Organization of the Year: Special Olympics Hawai’i relies on more than 5,000 event volunteers a year. It really means a lot when we can consistently count on a group of volunteers. The USS John Paul Jones, under the leadership of Command Master Chief Richard Terrell and Lieutenant Steven Manning, has been one of our biggest military support groups, volunteering at every single sporting event and fundraiser we have had. These fine sailors are some of our most consistent and hard-working volunteers, and are always out with a smile on their faces. Last year, after Special Olympics Hawai’i experienced email issues and were short volunteers for our Holiday Classic, Commander Master Chief Terrell personally put a call out to all his colleagues on other naval ships, spreading the word about our upcoming event. We truly feel that his extra effort for our athletes saved our games!
Outstanding School: Waialua Elementary School started participating in Special Olympics Hawai’i’s Unified program eight years ago with only two athletes. Since then it has grown so much that they had enough players to field three Unified basketball teams this year. They have a great staff that not only teaches the students during the school day but coaches them in their spare time AND two of their coaches are the school’s principal and counselor. There is one woman behind the unification of our 2016 Outstanding School of the Year and that is Kimi Kawachi. With the support of Principal Scott Moore, Waialua Elementary School stands above the rest.
Outstanding Unified Partner: This year’s Outstanding Unified Partner, Joanne Nagamine has worn many hats during her years with Special Olympics. She is a Unified partner for bocce and bowling and also serves on the ‘Ohana Task Force for East Hawai’i. She is a positive influence not only for our Special Olympics athletes but our Unified partners as well. She is extremely encouraging and always has a positive attitude and willing to help. Congratulations to our 2016 Unified Partner of the Year, Joanne Nagamine from the Hilo Explosions Delegation!
Volunteer of the Year: Volunteers are the backbone of our program. With a small staff, Special Olympics programs rely heavily on the commitment and dedication of our volunteers. This year's Outstanding Volunteer, Troy Kaneshiro has been described as being kind, caring, enthusiastic, funny, musically inclined, stellar, awesome, amazing and FANTASTIC. We could not agree more. He is the Head of Delegation and the backbone of his team, WISP. Congratulations to our 2016 Volunteer of the Year, Troy Kaneshiro.
Outstanding Coach of the Year: Our Outstanding Coaches of the Year, Carol and Edmund Kellet have been involved with Special Olympics for a LONG time. A parent states, “our association with these coaches has been oriented to develop swimming teams that are assertive in addressing their competitive physical talents and their mental growth.” And they have been successful in doing that with our Rainbows swimmers. Carol and Edmund Kellet’s dedication to our athletes over the past 20 years is greatly appreciated!
Outstanding Family: This year's Outstanding Family, the Sakima-Young Family, goes above and beyond for their delegation. This year’s winner is involved in every aspect of Special Olympics Hawai’i. They bring their child to practices, plus both parents and older sister are coaches for their team, as well as coaches for the SOFit program. They are involved in every fundraiser that their team does, they attend the Global Messenger Toastmasters every month, and they do anything else that is asked of them!
Outstanding Media Person of the Year: Rachelle Hennings has developed a soft spot for our Special Olympics athletes. She is a strong advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and does all the media work for our West Hawai’i area program pro bono. Mahalo and congratulations to Rachelle Hennings for being our Outstanding Media Person for 2016!
Female Athlete of the Year: Jennifer Wong has been involved in our program since 1995. She began as an athlete at King Intermediate, and has participated in every sport that is offered by Special Olympics. She competed in swimming at the World Games in North Carolina and in track and field at the World Games in Shanghai, returning both times with silver and bronze medals. This athlete has been employed at Special Olympics Hawai’i for over 10 years as a project assistant; doing the majority of the data inputting for the organization.
Male Athlete of the Year: Christopher Liberato has been part of the program for over 15 years. He takes a great deal of pride in his team, in being kind, and being the leader. As a team leader, he has at times sacrificed what might be best for him in order to have the best outcome for his team. He had the honor of representing Special Olympics Hawai’i at the National Games in Ames, Iowa on our East Hawai’i basketball team.
Above & Beyond Honorees: Special Olympics Hawai’i has a group of volunteers that work countless hours and dedicate a huge amount of their heart and soul to our athletes and this program. We honor them through our Above and Beyond Award.
Our first honoree, Nathan Martin started volunteering for our program several years ago as a regular volunteer during our Aukake Classic bocce competition. After working with him for just one event, we knew that we wanted him in a leadership role. He now is our Head Bocce Court official for Aukake and Holiday Classics, a bocce official trainer, and one of the Head Stagers for running and standing long jump at our State Summer Games. His very calm personality and knowledge makes him an ideal coordinator of all these events.
Steven Manning started volunteering with us in 2012. From his very first event, we saw how hard he worked and quickly asked him to step up and join our Event Staff Team. Serving as one of our Special Operations Managers, he is responsible for the setup, break down and everything in between at many of our events. While everyone sees the finished product of amazing events for our athletes, most people don’t realize the overwhelming amount of work that goes on behind the scenes. This is all done by our volunteer Special Ops Managers. Simply put, we could not do all this without amazing volunteers like Steven Manning who are so willing to share their time with us.
Special Olympics Athletes Benefit From Hawaiian Electric Donation
As one of the company’s “125 Acts of Aloha” commemorating its 125th anniversary, Hawaiian Electric has donated $10,000 to Special Olympics Hawaiʻi, the nonprofit organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Tayne Sekimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president/chief financial officer, presented the check to the organization during a Special Olympics Young Athlete event at Kaiser High School.
“Every person should have the opportunity to learn, enjoy, and benefit from participation in individual and team sports,” said Sekimura, an avid runner who recently joined the Special Olympics Hawaiʻi board in April.
“The Special Olympics program was founded on a firm belief that there are no limits to the capabilities of people with intellectual challenges. They can participate in a wide variety of recreational experiences and benefit from it as well. Our company applauds the organization in Hawaiʻi for providing these athletes with the proper training and skills to grow their confidence, and ultimately, to shine.”
“We are extremely grateful to be one of Hawaiian Electric’s 125 Acts of Aloha for their 125th anniversary celebration” said Nancy Bottelo, Special Olympics Hawai’i president and CEO. “It is through the generosity of corporations like Hawaiian Electric that we are able to continue to transform the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families.”