Special Olympics athletes feel spirit of Thanksgiving

Kellianne Damasco was quiet. That is usually not the case for 8-year-old girls, but the sea of motorcycles that collected in the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall parking lot was enough to quiet anyone.

Shelly Gerardo, one of the volunteers for the Kaua‘i Special Olympics program, said more than 200 motorcycle riders turned out for the ride benefiting the Kaua‘i Special Olympics program.

For Kellianne, this was the first ride where she would be packed by her dad, Cyle.

Gerardo said the annual event has grown to become one of the major fund-raising events for the program that helps more than 120 Special Olympians on the island.

While the convoy out to Waimea and back through Po‘ipu before returning to Lihu‘e might not have been for everyone, non-motorcycle riders could browse through silent auction items, enjoy the live entertainment or grind on a special Mark’s Place plate lunch.

For Special Olympic athletes who were present, the sea of motorcycles was an awesome sight. Kylie Moniz, a state and national gold medalist, flitted from bike to bike, each one becoming his favorite.

The excitement was contagious. Cheryl Lum, a rider with the Sons of Kaua‘i, couldn’t believe she was the winner of the trip for two to either Reno, Nev., Las Vegas, San Diego, Calif., San Francisco or Orlando, Fla.

The air and hotel package was contributed by Tom Leighton and Two Wheels in Kapa‘a just a few days before the ride, and the prize was announced by Shane Vegas, a Special Olympian.

“The athletes made a wonderful showing and I believe they’ve made many new friends as a result of the Ride,” Gerardo said.

Limited to motorcycles in the past, this year classic cars and trucks also turned out for the convoy. Gerardo felt that early morning rains in Wailua and Koloa kept the cars in the garage, with the exception of a lone Monte Carlo and two pickups that joined the caravan.

“This is the only ride I ride a motorcycle in,” said Mel Rapozo, the event emcee and leader of the pack.

Rapozo’s affiliation with the event dates back to the original ride at the former Kukui Grove Park and Pavilion, where he had the distinction of offering volunteer Jennifer Arashiro a ride to Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School and back.

“Thanks to everyone’s participation, we will be able to help more than 120 athletes receive special training and sports activities that allow them to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympic athletes and the community,” Gerardo said. “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are humbled by the outpouring of help that we receive from the community at large. On behalf of our wonderful athletes, thank you for the continued support of Special Olympics Kaua‘i.”

Other major sponsors included the County of Kaua‘i, Mark’s Place, Kaua‘i Harley Davidson, Coca Cola Bottling of Hawai‘i and Steve’s Mini Mart.

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

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