Front-line flood workers offered free massages

When Liisa VanDerMeer heard reports of angry motorists allegedly swearing at members of weary county and state road crews working hard to keep the island’s highways open, she said she knew she had to do something.

“That’s just not right,” she said of those reportedly spewing profanities at people just trying to do their jobs in trying conditions.

And, since the island’s massage therapists and other body-work professionals weren’t able to mobilize in time to get to Kilauea when the most intense work was taking place, some of them got together and began talking about ways of “giving back” to those volunteers and paid disaster-relief responders, she said.

The idea of offering free massages to county and state workers, volunteers, and others, eventually evolved into events taking place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at both the Kilauea and Koloa neighborhood centers, where massage therapists and other body-work professionals will donate their services and offer upwards of 70 free, 45-minute massages to those who responded to the disaster aftermath, she said.

“If we could get everybody who helped on the tables, that would be great,” said Van-DerMeer, owner and operator of A Touch of Aloha Day Spa in Harbor Mall on Rice Street in Nawiliwili.

The idea is to help relieve some of the stress and tension those responders may have been feeling, she said.

She has also put the word out that she and others are looking for more massage and body-work professionals to donate their services for part of the day, she said.

Yesterday, she and other volunteers were working feverishly to get produced, printed and distributed vouchers to those response workers who were attending Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste’s second annual prayer luncheon at the Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort at Nukoli’i, she said.

The Giving Back Massage and Body Work event organizers are also looking for other volunteers to provide live music, other forms of entertainment, pupus, lei, decorations, flowers, door prizes, “or anything to give a wonderful Kaua’i mahalo to our heroes. Let’s really show them our appreciation.”

Those interested in getting the free massages need to call in advance to secure appointment times. They can call VanDerMeer, 823-0975, or Katharina Strack from Touch Kauai, 822-1768.

Representatives of agencies have been contacted to encourage their staff members, “Kaua’i’s heroes,” to come to either site for their complimentary massages and body work “in gratitude for their service,” VanDerMeer said.

Robin Mazor, former executive director of the Kauai Children’s Discovery Museum in Kaua’i Village shopping center in Waipouli, is also assisting with the planning for this event, VanDerMeer said.

This event is to honor people from the following agencies, and others: American Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Kauai Amateur Radio Club, KQNG radio, Hawaiian Telcom, Hawaii Army National Guard, Hawaii Air National Guard, Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, Kauai Search and Rescue, Kaua’i Hospice Beeper Team, state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kaua’i Police Department (including dispatch), Kaua’i Fire Department, The Kaua’i Bus, KFD Ocean Safety Bureau, Kaua’i Civil Defense, Kauai Food Bank, Emergency Operations Center, state Department of Transportation Highways Division, county Department of Public Works Division of Road Construction & Maintenance, county Department of Water, American Medical Response, Roger Taniguchi and company, Lance Fu, Waalani Enterprises, vendor truck drivers, U.S. Postal Service letter carriers, county DPW rubbish collectors, UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, county Office of Economic Development, county Offices of Community Assistance, county Information Technology, Office of the County Attorneys, and the Office of the Mayor.

“This is a small token compared to how much the disaster workers and their families have done for Kaua’i,” said Rob Rice, a message therapist who works at A Touch of Aloha Day Spa and on his own.

“As massage therapists and bodyworkers, it’s one way we thought we could help the helpers, the volunteers and workers who have made our roads safe, rescued families from floodwaters, removed landslides and debris, helped people with finding temporary shelter in these rains,” he said.

“We want to say ‘thanks for being on the front line for all of us.’ It’s because of their hard work, time away from their families, that we want to give back,” said Rice.

“We want to give back to the volunteers and workers,” added Rice.

“It is good for the heart to see the caring which inspired this event,” said Mazor.

“Kaua’i has so many helping hands, and so many people willing to give. The healing powers of massage and body work are being offered as an expression of gratitude to the workers and volunteers who have given so much,” said Mazor.

“The amount of massage therapists and body workers who have offered to make this event possible is impressive, and the numbers are still growing.”

“We know we have not been able to contact every person who helped our community during this time,” said VanDerMeer. “We’d like to extend this invitation to all who helped, so please call us and reserve a special time for you,” she added.

“Within the last months, in reaction to the recent flooding, we have seen so many heroes stepping in to help out,” she continued.

“Now there is a way for Kaua’i’s healing-arts community to give back by doing what we do best, helping through massage and body work.”

How does a volunteer or worker get a free massage?

“We would like anyone who saw these Kauai Angels going above and beyond the call of duty to call us, and nominate those angels by giving us their name and phone number, or agency they worked with,” VanDerMeer said.

“This gives a ‘pay-it-forward’ effect. We give you the chance to thank them with the gift of massage and body work,” she said to fellow body-work and massage professionals.

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