Earlier this month Special Olympics Hawai‘i hosted the state’s first ever Project UNIFY Youth Summit to learn how to create positive change in their school climates and promote acceptance for their peers with intellectual disabilities.
Designed to educate, motivate and activate Project UNIFY schools, the summit welcomed students and teachers from 12 high school and middle schools across Hawai‘i.
During the conference members of the state Youth Activation Committee (YAC) conducted presentations on the three components of Project UNIFY – inclusive sports, inclusive youth leadership and whole school engagement. The Youth Activation Committee consists of students with and without intellectual disabilities from Hilo High School, Waiakea High School, Kaua‘i High School, Kapa‘a High School, Roosevelt High School and Farrington High School.
Throughout the summit schools participated in interactive activities, networking and spent time planning their activities for the year as well as sharing their ideas with other schools.
Island Air is teaming up with Special Olympics Hawai‘i to support this year’s games. The sponsorship of Special Olympics Hawai‘i’s Lāna‘i program will provide local athletes with the opportunity to train and compete in Special Olympics for the first time since 2006.
“We are privileged and excited to be working with Special Olympics Hawai‘i to expand their mission and reach into the community, and also the opportunity for Island Air employees to get involved and give back,” stated Island Air CEO Paul Casey.
Taking the Lead for Special Olympics Hawai`i
By Nip Ho, Vice President of Area Services
More than 225 Special Olympics Hawai‘i volunteers, family members, law enforcement volunteers, Project UNIFY students and athletes came together September 20-21 to participate in Special Olympics Hawai‘i’s Leadership Conference. The conference began with the opening general session which was emceed by Chris Toyama, a Special Olympics athlete, Global Messenger, Toastmaster and assistant powerlifting coach. The general session provided wonderful information about the current status of our Special Olympics programs, led by four Project UNIFY students: Unified Partner and State YAC representative Kiana Okino from Kaua‘i High School, athlete and State YAC representative Kyle Fujihara from Hilo High School, Unified Partner Anson Yu, and athlete and State YAC representative Keala Doran from Waiakea High School.
Special Olympics coaches spent two days working with Dan Epstein, vice president of sports for Special Olympics Hawai‘i on the principals of coaching. Our Special Olympics Hawai‘i head of delegations spent Saturday working together. The families of Special Olympics Hawai‘i worked hard with our Special Olympics ‘Ohana Task Force team led by Gwen Kagihara, suggesting ways for improvement within our program, and followed with a wonderful session on SSI, SSDI and estate planning for their children.
Our law enforcement team came together from around the state to learn more ways to help raise the needed funds for our program. Melissa Blake, director of Torch Run development, Major Kurt Kendro, Chief Antonio Williams, and Sargent Ben Moszcowicz also ended the day with our LETR folks bonding over a game of bocce with the Rainbow delegation.
Special Olympics athlete, Global Messenger and Toastmaster Renee Manfredi inspired us at lunch to continue all of our work to move our Special Olympics program forward. She shared the impact all of the people in that room has made in her life and her families lives MUST be made in other people lives like her. Our work must continue.
Sunday ended the conference with a graduation ceremony for our newest Advanced Global Messengers. Marcelino Galdones, Jennifer Kagihara, Nicolas Pang, Matthew Pullium, Kenji Momohara, Reyse Sakima, Christopher Toyama, Alice Webb, Austin Wong became our first class of Advanced Global Messengers in Hawai‘i.
Mahalo to all for helping to make this year’s conference a success and we look forward to seeing you in 2015!
Remembering the Legacy of Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Special Olympics Hawai‘i celebrated Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day during our inclusionary Young Athletes Program on September 27 at Kaiser High School.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver was the co-founder of Special Olympics. She began Special Olympics as a day camp in her back yard in 1961 and helped to create this phenomenal movement that today serves close to five million Special Olympics athletes around the world, including more than 3,200 athletes around Hawai‘i.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day is an annual celebration of her life and a global call to action for people to live in a more unified society -- in sports, in the community and in the work place. By committing acts of inclusion, acceptance and unity for and with people with intellectual disabilities, we will continue to build on Eunice Kennedy Shriver's legacy.
Each month Special Olympics Hawai‘i holds two YAP activities -- one in Ewa Beach and one at Kaiser High School. On September 27 more than 30 high school Key Club members and other youth volunteers came out to volunteer their time and energy for our Special Olympics young athletes.
These athletes range from two through seven years of age. Each month new developmental movements are introduced to our YAP athletes and this months activities were designed around kicking. Balls were flying everywhere in the Kaiser High School cafeteria!
If you would like more information about the Young Athletes Program please contact Nip at
Area Feature: Kaua‘i’s Caring Coach
By Jocelyn Barriga, Special Olympics Kaua‘i Area Director
To many in the Special Olympics Kaua‘i community, Sergeant Roderick Green, or “Coach Rod,” is a well-known face. As a community relations officer for the Kaua’i Police Department, Coach Rod brings his warm personality and love for people when coaching island athletes.
During a recent interview, Green reflected on his memorable introduction to Special Olympics Kaua‘i over a game of basketball. “I remember how confident the coach was about my abilities, and introduced me to the athletes as ‘Coach Rod.’ Special Olympics Kaua‘i athletes have a way of drawing you in with their competitive drive, innocence, motivation and overall enthusiasm,” says Green.
Coach Rod recalls a specific experience several years ago at the Law Enforcement Torch Run on O‘ahu where hundreds had gathered to participate. As he made his way through the crowds of cheering fans, he could not help but become overwhelmed by emotion as he entered the University of Hawai‘i Manoa Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies of the State Summer Games.
Coach Rod regularly participates in Special Olympics Kaua‘i events, including acting as the leg leader of the First Hawaiian Troy Barboza Torch Run. He continues to coach and mentor Kaua‘i’s athletes.
Supporters like Coach Rod are continuously making a difference on Kaua‘i. He is such a large part of our Special Olympics Kaua‘i ‘ohana. All of our volunteers play an integral part in the work that we do.
“I can’t imagine my life without these athletes,” says Green. “They inspire me in my own life to push beyond the barriers.”
Carrying a Torch for Hawai‘i
By Patricia Doronila
Some of our Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) members recently attended the International LETR Conference held in New Orleans from September 9-13, 2014. More than 1,100 participants, primarily law enforcement, represented Special Olympics organizations from around the globe and came together to brainstorm ideas, share successes and network to expand the Torch Run movement.
The fours days were packed with events and educational sessions. Some of our favorites were the speeches given by the parents of athletes, the Torch Run t-shirt exchange, the unplugged session with Chief Richard LaMunyon (creator of the LETR) and the Unified Sports Day, during which attendees partnered with Special Olympics Louisiana athletes to play bocce and basketball.
Special Olympics Hawai‘i set the bar for other programs during the educational sessions as we were able to share the successful partnership with our military in the islands and encouraged others to build a similar relationship. We were also incredibly honored to bring home the Sapphire Award presented to Special Olympics Hawai‘i for raising more than $250,000 in 2013.