Pop Warner lives today, honors past

Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho summed up the day with just the right words to describe the Jamboree 2008 held Saturday at Vidinha Stadium.

“Today is very important,” she said. “We’re honoring the past, living today … this is only the start of things to come.”

Iseri-Carvalho was one of several dignitaries who addressed an audience nearly matching the size of the pre-season football game the previous night.

The Jamboree traditionally starts the fall Pop Warner tackle football season and allows teams from the different districts to come together for a day of fellowship as well as recognition for the achievements attained by its membership.

Holly Camara was a longtime Pop Warner advocate and supporter, her biggest achievement being the launching of the cheer program to its current status. A victim of cancer on Aug. 31, league officials declared the 2008 season to be dedicated to her memory.

Councilman Mel Rapozo, league commissioner, delivered what he described as his “toughest speech yet” before Camara’s surviving family: mother Millie Ah Hee, who serves as the league’s scholastic coordinator; and Camara’s sons, Mike and Beau Acoba and Aaron Camara.

“Holly exemplified the spirit of Pop Warner,” Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said. “Pop Warner is a mainstay of youth programs where it teaches young people the skills of life — to be the very best you can be.”

Harold Naumu and Dick Ueoka, two of the surviving members who founded Pop Warner on Kaua‘i, were honored for their efforts at bringing the program here 46 years ago.

A longtime football fan, announcer and official, Naumu said the original program started with just five teams and with equipment acquired through the help of the Shriners Aloha Temple.

The only provision they asked for in return was to hold a Shriners game each year. The league has lived up to that requirement and at the Jamboree presented the Shriners with a check for $3,200, representing the proceeds from the 2007 Shrine Game.

“It is certainly fitting to honor the founders, Harold and Richard,” Mayor Bill “Kaipo” Asing said. “Thank you for the wisdom for organizing such a well-rounded, well-organized program which is a wholesome activity for our youth.”

Paul Pancho, the current league president, said Ueoka was a co-captain for the University of Hawai‘i football team in 1955 when Hawai‘i beat Nebraska 6-0, and in 1966, the team was named to the Hall of Honor for that feat. Ueoka coached at the Kaua‘i Pop Warner level from 1964 to 1974 and suffered just one loss to a Neighbor Island team.

The far-reaching effects of the Pop Warner program can be attributed to the efforts of other honorees that included the board members of the Kapa‘a Pop Warner Association from 38 years ago.

Pancho said that board — Charlotte Kau, president; Wilfred Kaui, vice president; Judge Mukai, treasurer; Alan Yamada, athletic director; Arthur Defries and John Cummings, coaches; and Gary Hironaka, board member — was responsible for taking the first Kapa‘a Pop Warner team to the Mainland as well as introducing floats to the Jamboree during a time when parades would snake through the towns of Kapa‘a, Lihu‘e and Hanapepe to celebrate the opening of the season.

Gaylene Palama, whose children are now in the program, was a former Pop Warner queen and remembers those days of riding on the float and awaiting the judges’ decision on who would reign as the Pop Warner queen.

Marilyn Yamaguchi and Gilroy Yorkman of the Koloa Pop Warner Association were also honored for their work with the Pop Warner program.

“It’s all for the kids,” said Yamaguchi, affectionately known as Mama-Guchi. “If no mo’ kids, no mo’ team, no mo’ coaches.”

Their work is still evident today, said Gayle Thompson in describing the two Koloa supporters.

At the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair where Yamaguchi recruited volunteers to set up a food booth to help the team pay for expenses for O‘ahu trips, she said, “It’s not a good meal without mac salad” and at the most recent fair, Koloa Pop Warner plate lunches were being served with mac salad a la Mama-Guchi.

Aleina Emayo and Keane Shane Agoot headlined the roster of Pop Warner scholar athletes who were recognized for their achievements. Emayo, a cheer member of the Kekaha Chargers, and Agoot of the Kapa‘a Eagles Midget tackle football program, earned the Wescon Regional Scholastic Award from a field of hundreds of applicants throughout the Wescon region which includes about 300 teams.

Both athletes join 10 other Pop Warner athletes in being named to the Second Team All-American Scholar roster through the Pop Warner Little Scholars program.

“This is the only national youth sports organization that requires its participants to perform adequately in the classroom before permitting them to play,” Rapozo said. “PWLS believes that the standards they have set gives these children a sense of responsibility and an appreciation for academics and athletics that will help them develop later in life.”

Emayo headed up the athletes named from the cheer program, joining Alexa Thompson and Oriana Huff of the Kapa‘a Eagles, Brandi Lynn Hironaka of the Lihu‘e Patriots and Courtney Chronister of the Kekaha Chargers.

Tackle football players include Agoot and Anthony Aiwohi of the Kapa‘a Eagles, Austin Oshiro, Kellen Aquino, Randon Valenciano and Dade Apao of the Lihu‘e Patriots and Chase Parongao of the Hanapepe Colts.

“I ask all of you to seek higher aspirations,” Iseri-Carvalho said.

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

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