KAPA‘A — The grounds of the Mahelona Clinic were turned into a zoo Tuesday morning as pre-schoolers and senior citizens came out to enjoy the 20th annual Mahelona Petting Zoo.
“She’s my favorite,” said 3-year-old Ruby Mariposa, as she petted a baby goat in the Kawamura Farms petting zoo area.
“This is all a part of National Hospital Week,” said event coordinator Josie Pablo, who walked around dressed as a bunny.
She and members of the Kapa‘a High School Junior ROTC dressed up as the children’s favorite cartoon characters such as Nemo from “Finding Nemo” and the Winnie the Pooh characters “Tigger” and “Eeyore.” The Kaua‘i Fire Department brought out “Sparky” and the police department brought out “McGruff.”
Pablo said community businesses also get involved and bring hands-on booth activities to add education to the day.
“Everybody had a hand in this,” Pablo said.
Those activities were provided by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, the Kauai Discovery Museum, Mark the Beekeeper, Ho‘ola Lahui Hawai‘i, Kapa‘a High Interact Club, and PATCH.
Syngenta Seeds provided popcorn for everyone and employees of the Mahelona Clinic provided stamps and stickers.
Children, teachers and parent volunteers came from all parts of the island, from Hanalei to Kaumakani.
Parent volunteer Rollan Yadao of the Kilauea School accompanied some of the kids, including his 6-year-old son Maverick. Despite the annual petting zoo’s long run, this was Yadao’s and his son’s first visit. They got there bright and early.
“I’m for all these activities like these for the little kids,” he said.
His son Maverick said his favorite part of the whole thing was the horse rides.
Ed Kawamura of Kawamura Farms has been with this event since it began.
“Over here, it’s important for the kids to interact with the animals,” Kawamura said. “The kids get to see this and in the case when a child turns to his mother while holding the animal, that’s what I call a ‘golden moment.’ That parent-child relationship. They’ll remember that for the rest of their lives.”
Kawamura also admits that the day is not only for the kids, but is for the patients of Mahelona as well. Most of them got to hang out under a tent to enjoy the day and watch the kids run around.
“When they come out, it takes them back to their younger days,” Kawamura said. “It’s a therapeutic thing for the patients.”
Tired kids, teachers and parent volunteers ended their day by being shuttled to their cars by the Smith’s Tropical Paradise Tram.
“The most rewarding thing for me is when I see the kids smile,” Pablo said. “That’s why I do it. That’s what makes it worthwhile.”
• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or firstname.lastname@example.org.