LIHU‘E n Kukui’s Restaurant waitress Gayleen Palama was one of more than 2,000 walkers who surged past a starting line the width of Umi Street made entirely of hula skirts at Saturday morning’s Visitor Industry Charity Walk.
“We have a new shirt,” she said, pointing out all the various Marriott properties on the island listed on her shirt. “It’s now ‘Team Kaua‘i,’ reflecting all of the Marriott properties.”
“You folks are giving me chicken skin,” Angela Vento, chair of this year’s event, told those anxiously awaiting the total amount raised.
Vento relished the moment, peeking at the sheet containing the total.
“$180,966!” she said. “You folks are too much! I have chicken skin!”
Top fund raisers received Rubbah, Silver and Golden Slippah awards, with David Mona of the Grand Hyatt Resort, Max Kultke of the County of Kaua‘i and Jeanette Ridings of the Courtyard by Marriott at Waipouli Beach taking top honors.
Sandi Kato-Klutke of ResortQuest said Ridings raised more than $4,000.
“We have over 1,800 pledge forms turned in, but there were walkers who just wanted to walk, so I believe we had over 2,000 walkers,” Kato-Klutke said.
Haven Daubern of Pahio Resorts won the Grand Prize, which included a trip to San Francisco.
Over the past year, organizers of the annual event have been working towards Saturday, when participants traversed a course starting and ending on the lawn of the historic county building, winding a loop through Lihu‘e in between.
Throughout the course, aid stations established by various community businesses keep walkers hydrated and sometimes added little snacks.
Kellie Pleas, her hands filled with bottles of water and packages of goodies, jogged across Hardy Street near the finish line. Her morning stroll was just a warmup for the Kaua‘i Great Weigh Out event that was to follow at the convention hall.
“We need to be there by 9:30,” said fellow walker Cathy Agoot.
Henry Kapono, featured entertainer for the morning, also joined the throng of walkers. With Aunty Stella Burgess guitar-sitting the entertainer’s instrument, Kapono settled in for a helping of the beef stew prepared by Mark Sassone and the culinary staff at the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort before taking the stage.
The Kaua‘i Chapter of the Hawai‘i Hotel & Lodging Association pulled no punches in making sure the walkers were fed as the major resorts had their executive chefs and a good portion of their culinary staff on hand to provide a variety of breakfasts.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 83, one of the beneficiaries of last year’s walk, were on hand to help police the grounds, and members of the Kapa‘a High School J.R.O.T.C. were at the finish line passing out breakfast tickets to walkers.
Ron Wiley of KQNG Radio took the stage to keep everything moving along as Bruce Smalling and Dickie Chang worked the event for an upcoming Wala‘au production.
Proceeds from the walk benefit local non-profit organizations.In 2005, 34 Kaua‘i groups were beneficiaries of funds raised through the charity walk.