Dream comes true for Hongwanji preschoolers

KAPAIA — It was hard for the Lihu‘e Hongwanji preschoolers to contain their enthusiasm over the past several weeks as they watched the final phases of their new play structure take shape, and following a short dedication officiated by resident minister Rev. Midori Kondo, the students were let loose.

Yesterday was the first day they actually played on the new equipment.

They climbed, they slid, they explored, all in the shade of a canopy that allowed the breeze and sun to filter through without the heat.

During the past few weeks, scores of volunteers, including parents and members of several community organizations like the East Kauai Lions Club and the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, gathered at the Kapaia site to erect the structure that had only been a dream for years.

Under the supervision of Landscape Sculpture personnel, the playground steadily took shape.

Preschool staff, parents and church members had been trying to raise funds for several years, said preschool director Sandie Fujimoto.

“Young Brothers was the first to step forward as they gave us our first grant towards the playground,” she said.

Members of the Young Brothers’ Community Advisory Board attended the Kodomo no Hi event created to help raise funds for the new play structure.

That event, coinciding with International Children’s Day, featured baked goods, children’s games, silent auctions and an opportunity for families to spend time with each other over the mesmerizing sound of taiko drummers.

Kondo said she remembers the day she started the preschool in 1968.

“We started it as an outreach program for the church,” Kondo said. “We used one of the rooms downstairs because it was near the bathrooms.”

Thirty-eight years later, Kondo came full circle as she presided over the new play structure.

“When we started, we could only have 24 students, and the school was only half-day,” she said. “We bussed the students home, and I had to take this truck drivers’ course so I could drive the van.”

Today, Kondo said the preschool has an enrollment of “at least 50 students,” offers a Summer School program, and parents have an option of either a full-day or half-day program.

With the dedication, the preschool is half-way to realizing its final vision of adding another sandbox gazebo and a tricycle path.

The cost for the dedicated structure came in about $53,000 not including the concrete costs.

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

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