Hundreds turn out for Mahelona tree-lighting

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A young mother gets a photo of a decorated section of the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapaa Monday evening during the hospital’s second annual tree-lighting festivities.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Mary Lardizabal leads the Kapaa Middle School Choir and Ukulele Band, which entertains the crowd of people jammed into the covered sidewalk area at Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapaa Monday evening at the hospital’s second annual tree-lighting festivities.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Aunty Debbie Wakuta plies her balloon magic, left foreground, for the throng of people enjoying the illuminated display at Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapaa Monday evening during the hospital’s second annual tree-lighting festivities.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital resident Melody Pascual clutches a glow stick while dancing to the music being provided by Kim McDonough Monday evening during tree-lighting festivities in the hospital’s courtyard in Kapaa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Santa Phil (yes, there were three!) Worwa has his laps full as a father gets a photo of the memorable moment Monday evening during the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital second annual tree-lighting festivities in Kapaa.

KAPAA — It was a hungry crowd at Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital Monday night.

“We brought more than 400 cookies,” said Josie Cortez of the Rotary Club of Kapaa, which provided the refreshments of cocoa and cookies.

“We passed them out one by one, and I had to send people to go buy more.”

Hundreds of people, including families, converged in anticipation of the lighting of the hospital grounds for the holidays.

“I didn’t think anyone would come,” said Josie Pablo, hospital recreation director. “Tonight is about celebrating and ringing in the holiday season. It’s about creating new memories with loved ones and spreading cheer to all. This event was created to spread Christmas cheer and love to our residents so they too can feel the magic of the season.”

Residents were bundled for the weather and ringed the courtyard that sprouted illuminated displays put together by community groups, hospital volunteers, and led by the grounds crew including Joe Arruda, Tony Bonilla, Brian Kahamanui, George Salvador and Victor Lozano.

“I tell you, these guys have worked so hard in making sure that everything was perfect for tonight,” Pablo said. “They have been working nonstop and have taken so much pride in this courtyard. This is their masterpiece. It’s like people say, ‘Christmas isn’t a season, it’s a feeling!”

Hospital volunteers led by Wilma Chandler, Tommy Chandler, Jeri Bulosan, Clyde Furumoto and Dennis Thomas created a welcoming illuminated display in the hospital’s lobby, honoring the memory of Elaine Morita.

“I’m so glad we were able to get this together last year,” Pablo said. “This was the last thing she saw. It was a dream she had for a long time, and I’m glad we were able to put it together before she left us.”

Gasps of awe filled the air as Arruda pulled the switch, triggering a new wave of excitement following Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. joining Mary Lardizabal and the Kapaa Middle School Choir and Ukulele Band for an offering of Christmas carols and seasonal music.

Screams of delight from children enjoying the Kauai-style Snow Day punctuated the nighttime scene as Kimblery McDonough’s violin smoothed the air with holiday music and Santa (yes, there were three of them!) had laps full of children anxious to tell the North Pole visitor their holiday wishes.

The display is available for the public to enjoy before the hospital doors close at 8 p.m. nightly.

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