When you join one of coach Maynard Shea’s basketball teams, you become a member of an extended ‘ohana stretching around the island.
Whether they call him “uncle” or “coach,” his former players even as they enter awkward teen years or ease into adulthood still approach him with warm hugs if they see him at the gym, at parties, on the street, or in the mall.
They’re not afraid to use the “L” word (“love”) when describing their feelings for Shea, something he returns with interest.
“They’re part of my extended family, these kids and their parents. I consider them my kids, too,” Shea said.
So, when it was discovered that Shea had somehow contracted hepatitis C, was unable to continue working as a security guard at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility and began undergoing expensive treatment, his players and their parents started selling chocolate to raise funds for him.
Without his knowledge, at least for the first two fundraising rounds.
Once he got wind of the unauthorized fundraising (at least not authorized by him), originally the players’ idea, he established some ground rules: No door-to-door sales without adult supervision; and one case maximum per family, with the family allowed to eat as much as they wanted, and sell as much as they wanted.
The fundraising ground rule of one case per family didn’t fly with every family, he said with a smile. Some Westside families ordered 10 cases of chocolate, and said they could have sold more, Shea said.
Even competing teams helped raised funds for the beloved coach. Brian Inouye’s Lihu‘e Fire Raiders squad bought and sold much chocolate, Shea said.
An unintended result of the fundraising is development of an island-wide fundraising network that can be activated with a single phone call, Shea said.
The fundraising netted $6,000, which covered co-payments for two months of prescription drugs. “The pills are very expensive,” said Shea, 47, of ‘Ele‘ele.
On leave from his PMRF security job, he hopes to return to work in January, when his six-month treatment regimen ends.
“My treatment working,” he said. At a recent six-month checkup, doctors couldn’t find the virus, leading them to conclude that it either mutated into something they couldn’t detect and is hiding, or is going away.
Shea fears the worst. “It’s surviving yet.” Those fears appear founded, because earlier this month when he thought he was going to O‘ahu for simply a regular series of blood tests, he was kept in the hospital for a week.
“We all have cancer cells in our body, and some kick in,” said Shea, who has cirrhosis of the liver and was waiting for a liver transplant when doctors discovered the hepatitis C.
“Hepatitis” means “inflammation of the liver,” and hepatitis C is believed to be spread by exposure to infected blood or blood products, or needles or other sharp objects. Some feel getting tattoos is one way of potentially getting hepatitis C (please see www.all-about-hepatitisc.com for more details).
While the contracting of Shea’s disease remains a mystery, the success of his basketball teams is not.
In the county-sponsored, community-basketball program just completed, Shea coached six teams, and four of them made it to league playoff championship games.
Some of the younger players competed effectively against players a few years older than they are, including his under-12 age-group girls playing against girls who play junior-varsity basketball for Kauai High, and under-14 boys competing against under-16 teams.
But for Shea, the players and parents, the experience goes way beyond competing, winning and losing.
Practices and games double as teaching sessions for a larger, more important contest. “Us, it’s not only basketball. It’s preparing them for the game of life,” he said.
“Basketball is just a part of life,” he added.
Lessons include honoring and respecting parents, staying away from drugs, and the importance of growing up so as to not end up in prison.
“We do ‘em for our kids. Our kids are so important,” Shea said when asked why he agrees to coach so many teams.
Many of the players’ families aren’t wealthy, so he buys uniforms for all his teams, writing off as business expenses those expenditures. The $35 entry fee per player per division is enough of a burden for families, he reasons.
In addition to wishing to thank all the people on the island who bought or sold candy (“It’s over,” he said of the fundraising), he wanted to thank his security co-workers and other employees at PMRF for their assistance.
Shea and wife Marla have seven children: Stewart, Kimberly, Jocelyn, Marques, Jordan, David and Michelle.
Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 224).