NUKOLI‘I — Success with over 800 youth in the first year, and the introduction of wrestling to an island that had no program before, was enough to earn Kaua‘i Police Department officer Mark Ozaki an award at the statewide Lions district conference.
But it was not just an award, as Lions International District 50 Gov. Roy Nishida announced that Ozaki was the recipient of the Humanitarian Award, the highest award presented by Lions District 50.
Nishida said earlier Ozaki may be the first Neighbor Island resident to win the award.
Nina Arizumi, chair of the Humanitarian Award, joined Nishida to present the award to the Kauai Police Activities League director in the presence of his family, including his mother, who made the trip in from Kalaheo especially for the event.
Nishida said Ozaki was nominated by Shelley Teraoka, and beat out five other candidates from around the state to earn the award.
Ozaki, a special resource officer at one of the Kaua‘i schools, was the officer who started up the K-PAL program on Kaua‘i.
Branching out from its initial flag-football program which will be starting its season in June, K-PAL has incorporated the pitch, hit, and run competition, encompassed some of the Termite and Mitey Mite basketball programs not covered by the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, and also launched the first wrestling program on Kaua‘i.
“During the first year of wrestling under Ozaki’s supervision, Kaua‘i returned home with state champions,” Nishida said.
“During the last year, Ozaki spearheaded an effort to purchase wrestling mats for two more locations on the island, and more recently, just completed their first year with a competitive format to allow Kaua‘i wrestlers to get a feel for the state competition.”
Teraoka, as well as Crystal Kaya, one of the wrestling parents, was on hand to help Ozaki celebrate the award that was the final deed for Nishida as the Lions district governor.
Following the award, Nishida presented his farewell speech, and turned the reins of District 50 to Mervin Yee of Honolulu.
The formal transition was done yesterday as the Lions wrapped up their district convention at the Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort.
In addition to the Lions award, Nishida also presented Ozaki with a state senatorial resolution authored by Kaua‘i state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau, touting Ozaki’s accomplishments.
Mayor Bryan Baptiste proclaimed May 6 as “Mark Ozaki Day” in recognition for the officer’s achievements.
“My grandfather Ernest Ferreira was a Lion until the day he died,” Ozaki said in acknowledging his honor.
“I learned from an early age about the Lion motto ‘We Serve.’ I must have Lion blood flowing through my veins.”
• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or email@example.com.