Na Kama Kai: A Whole Lotta Aloha

Na Kama Kai - Hall with lighting IMAG0797 It was a dark and gloomy Saturday along Waikiki Beach.  Hurricane Ana was somewhere beyond the horizon, moving parallel to the Hawaiian Islands without causing too many squabbles, but still sending heavy clouds, rain and wind to many corners of Hawaii – with Waikiki getting a lot of it. On October 18, it was gray and gloomy and all Pacific Northwest outside of the Royal Hawaiian, but inside the Pink Palace was all light and color and warmth and a whole lotta aloha. Getting in out of the rain that was turning the Mai Tai bar into one swamp, the hallway leading to the Monarch Room was lined with tables laden with all kinds of cool things for a benefit auction, and those tables lead people to a fully decked-out Monarch Room – going back to the 1920s, this room with the triangular stage has provided a foundation for a lot of swell parties, and the Pa’akai Gala for the Na Kama Kai Foundation fit right in. Na Kama Kai - old school photo on wall IMAG0785 Na Kama Kai was founded by longboard professional Duane Desoto and is staffed by the extended Desoto ohana with kokua from many of Hawaii’s most accomplished watermen, waterwomen and civic leaders: “ Paʻakai Gala took six months to plan with our entire Board of Directors (seven total), a hand full of Advisory Board Members, Nā Kama Kai staff and myself, “),” Duane Desoto said, a few days after recovering from the event. “Mālia Kaʻaihue (my wife) and Angela Correa-Pei co-chaired the running of Paʻakai. Hunting down seat and table sales while securing silent auction items from each of our contacts demanded ultimate commitment and dedication to the success of the event. Mālia secured the most table sales. Monarch offered us the best rates they could allow and catered to our needs with great attention to detail. We are grateful for having Waka Momose, event coordinator for the Royal Hawaiian, as our contact.  Angela and Waka were able to maximize Nā Kama Kai's every dollar.” The mission of Na Kama Kai is “to empower youth by creating, conducting and supporting ocean-based programs, specifically targeting ocean safety and conservation awareness in order to increase the capacity of youth in the community through Hawaiian values, culture and environmental education." It’s not safe to assume that everyone in Hawaii is born with a preternatural wisdom about and love for the surrounding ocean, and the mission of Na Kama Kai is to instill knowledge and love of the ocean at a young age, and give children the skills to deal with the ocean, and with life. The goal of the Third Annual Pa’akai Gala was to raise awareness of Na Kama Kai, raise money for its programs, thank its volunteers and sponsors. And, of course, grind, drink and be mele. As Hurricane Ana whipped up the ocean below and threw rain from above, guests dressed in their aloha finest began arriving around 5:30 and there was a lot of activity around the silent auction tables, which offered everything from a signed copy of a Hawaii Five Oh shooting script, to custom-made wooden SUP paddles made by Leleo Kinimaka: clothing, art, things with form, things with function. Na Kama Kai - Hawaii Five Oh script - IMAG0789 A classy night, in an historic room with happy people, who mixed and mingled and kissed cheeks and talked story, as Hurricane Ana rained and raged outside. After an hour or so of mixing and bidding, everyone moved into the Monarch Room for a Royal Hawaiian banquet, music from Ernie Cruz Jr. and the Na Kama Kai Mini Mentors, speeches and presentations. Duane Desoto gave a speech thanking everyone who has helped his foundation. Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie showed face and said good things about Na Kama Kai, and there were speeches from Ho'okele Award recipient John Leong and Pa'akai Award recipient Mike Town: “ The Hoʻokele Award is given to member of the community who has begun a life-long commitment to our community, environment, and culture,” Duane Desoto said. “In most cases the work being done by the recipient is not well known to the general community so we hope to highlight their efforts and commitment. Na Kama Kai - Duane Desoto and guy IMAG0806 John Leong owns Pono Pacific and founded Kupu Hawaii. These two entities have had an incredible impact on Hawaii. Nā Kama Kai wanted to honor him for his efforts and spread the knowledge of his vital work. The Paʻakai Award is to honor our recipient for a lifetime achievement dedicated to our community, environment, and culture.  Mike Town is a retired trial and family court judge who has volunteered for Nā Kama Kai for over five years at our Ocean Safety and Conservation Awareness Clinics. As one of the founding fathers of Boys Club Hawaii and a champion in converting it to Boys and Girls Club Hawaii, Mike has spent his entire life helping his community.” “Pa’akai” literally means “a packet of salt,” but the larger meaning extends to “something good; a gift of anything one has grown or made—a gift made with great skill and personal investment of time and hard work.” All of these ideas apply to Na Kama Kai—a lot of good people working hard to bring up the next generation of Hawaiian with love and respect for the ocean, and themselves: “At the moment we know that we raised over $20,000,” Desoto said. “We may have raised as much as $30,000 in profits. The proceeds from the gala will be used for equipment, staffing, and volunteer appreciation. Nā Kama Kai's three programs are free to the community. Paʻakai is necessary to continue providing our programs for free.” —Benjamin Marcus

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