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Kaua’i’s generosity amazes MDA

LIHU’E — There was a commotion at the Wilcox Elementary School cafeteria, and it was not caused by the police SWAT team that was watching the neighboring building formerly occupied by the Kaua’i Police Department.

Instead, it was the arresting team from the Muscular Dystrophy Association Lock-Up taking away school Principal Rachel Watarai that caused the commotion, as the students followed the departing principal up to the school fence.

Watarai was one of 124 community leaders and volunteers who was “arrested” and “Locked Up for Good” (deeds) during the annual MDA Lock-Up that took place at Duke’s Canoe Club on the grounds of the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club.

“They’re really a great bunch of people,” said Leslie Uptain of the MDA office in Honolulu as she watched Watarai join Koloa School acting Principal Pohaku Nishimitsu and Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School video instructor Kevin Matsunaga at a table.

Uptain was on the money with her observation, as Nishimitsu ended up as one of the top five fund-raisers for the day, with a total of $1,995 raised.

Uptain announced that Kauaians raised a total of $45,768 for the one-day event. “This is $17,000 more than last year,” Uptain said. “Unbelievable!”

Don Herr, director of finance at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club, led the effort, with $2,120 raised, followed by Dennis Matsumoto, the director of purchasing at Koa Trading Company, who put together total contributions of $2,045.

Nishimitsu followed, with Leland Kahawai, branch manager of the Lihu’e branch of First Hawaiian Bank, coming up with $1,920. Les Hiranaka, general manager of Auto Value, rounded out the top five fund-raisers, with $1,650.

“The MDA staff is amazed at the generosity that flows year after year from the Garden Isle,” Uptain said.

MDA conducts three major fund-raisers annually throughout the state. These include the MDA Lock-Up, the Safeway tear pad program, and “Fill the Boot” with the state’s firefighters.

“The Kaua’i community gives more to MDA through these events per capita than any other island in Hawai’i,” Uptain said.

“For the Lock-Up to raise over $45,000 on an island that holds about 60,000 residents is astonishing. Our MDA hat is off to you all!”

Uptain added that the event was made even more successful by the sponsors and volunteers who came forward to help. These included Duke’s Canoe Club, King Auto Center, Kauai Coffee Company and Nextel.

Judge Jesse Spiller-Reiff headlined the volunteer effort that included Anjali Kumaran, and musician Sashamon, who provided music while the MDA Lock-Up buzzed with excitement from the prisoners who enjoyed lunch from Duke’s as well as solicited funds using the cell phones provided by Nextel for the event.

Additionally, James Oyadomari, Marion Ogata and Sumako Ichimasa joined Kumaran as “arresting officers,” while Lillian Amimoto, Hatsuko Kawaguchi and Ethel Ornellas served as greeters at the Lock-Up.

“We truly appreciate Kaua’i’s aloha and kokua in our fight against neuromuscular disease,” Uptain said. “Mahalo!”

Jennifer Li, with MDA in Honolulu, said the application deadline for the youth summer camp is tomorrow, a Kaua’i clinic for those with neuromuscular diseases is Friday on the second floor of the Kauai Medical Clinic in Lihu’e, a Kaua’i support group begins May 27, and the summer camp begins June 19 on O’ahu.

For more information, or appointments for the Friday clinic, call Li, 1-808-593-4454, or e-mail her at


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