Preschoolers hop for ‘Jerry’s kids’

KAPAIA — Jennifer Li of the Muscular Dystrophy Association was like Santa Claus to the students at the Lihu‘e Hongwanji Preschool Thursday.

Li had arrived from O‘ahu with boxes of goodies that were rewards for the students, who presented her with a check for $4,365.

The total represents funds generated by the recent Hop-a-Thon, where the preschool students averaged 160 hops during the event.

Teagan Amorin and Keilyn Hashimoto represented the two top student fund-raisers in the event, and had the honor of presenting Li with not only the check, but special lei created by the staff of the preschool.

“This is community,” Li said. “The children learn that, no matter what age, they can help in the fight against MDA.”

Li was on hand at the Kauai Medical Clinic on Friday, when MDA hosted a free clinic with Dr. Ronald Yamaoka.

“Do you know what your contribution will do?” Li asked the children, who responded with quizzical looks.

“What you did will help the MDA get two wheelchairs, and three people will be able to get clinic visits at a hospital,” Li told the students.

The clinics referred to by Li are like the ones that MDA hosted yesterday at Kauai Medical Clinic.

“The visits can be for diagnostic, follow-up care, or for referrals for physical therapy,” Li said. “And, it’s free for patients who work with MDA.”

Li said MDA hosts two clinics annually on Kaua‘i.

Currently, Li acknowledged that there are about 40 people on Kaua‘i who are afflicted with MDA, “but we know there are more out there that need help.

“But, in order to get help, they need to contact us,” Li said. “They can be referred to us by doctors, teachers, or family.”

The Hop-a-Thon is one of the MDA programs that increases awareness of the disease in the community, and Li said the statewide goal for the Hop-a-Thon program is to raise $50,000 this year.

Hop-a-Thons are hosted during the spring each year, she said, and schools interested in participating can find information on the MDA Web site at www.mdausa.org.

They can also contact her through the Web site.

“The more people are aware of the disease and what MDA can do to help patients, the better MDA can help clients,” Li said. “We want to reach out to people.”

During a recent visit to Kaua‘i, Li was being frustrated in her attempts at trying to get organizations to host a Hop-a-Thon, she said.

With a Kaua‘i Fire Department firefighter escorting her, Li said they dropped in on the Kapaia preschool with no appointment.

“We weren’t having much luck, and the fireman suggested we visit the preschool,” Li said. “We had no appointment. They didn’t know we were coming, but they were so nice.”

Li said she was told the preschool was having their own issues with installing new playground equipment, but the staff would do what they could to help.

“Everyone has issues,” Li said. “There were other things that people were working with, but this one preschool, in spite of their own issues, offered to do what they could to help.

“Kaua‘i is such a special place for MDA,” Li said. “We’ve always had such good response from here.”

On the agenda for MDA fund-raising is the Fill the Boot program that will be taking place during the Labor Day weekend, hosted by KFD firefighters.

Firemen will be manning stations to help the MDA at both the Wal-Mart and Big Kmart stores during the three-day weekend, and people are welcome to help the firefighters “fill the boots.”

The Muscular Dystrophy Association is a voluntary health agency that is a partnership between scientists and concerned citizens aimed at conquering neuromuscular diseases that affect more than a million Americans.

This fight is done through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive medical and community services, and professional and public health education.

“MDA is here to help,” Li said.

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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