‘Locals 4 Sendai’ deemed a success by organizers

KAPAI‘A — With less than a week to collect slippers, volunteers amassed 870 pairs of local-style footwear to ship to Japanese people affected by the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami disaster.

“It was heartwarming to see the kids rally for this cause and wanting to do their part in helping the people of Sendai, Japan,” said Gwen Tamura, one of the project organizers of “Locals 4 Sendai” and a soccer coach for some of the volunteers who helped.

Kekai Gonsalves, Taylor Foster, Kai‘imi Moniz, Alana Bauman, Brooke Spencer and Kanani Colburn played with Tamura, and on Saturday represented the Kapa‘a High School JV girls soccer program in manning a collection site at the All Saints Church parking lot in Kapa‘a.

Tracy Bauman and Chris Wataya stepped to the plate, allowing the group to use the church parking lot after the group could not secure sites at any of the shopping center locations.

Bryson Baligad, Ty Shiramizu, Joni Esaki, Mahina Costa, Jarrod Shinn, Adam Clark, Aharon Kelekini and Sierra Riemer, representing the Kapa‘a High School Student Council, joined the JV girls at the All Saints collection site, with Anuhea Panui, Nani Brun and Tori Pezario working double shifts because they were part of the two groups represented.

Godwin Esaki, a martial arts instructor at Lihu‘e Hongwanji Mission, also secured permission for a collection to be set up at the church’s annual bon dance over the weekend.

His family, Janet, Jamie and Joni Esaki were joined by Angela Mones, and other volunteers in collecting slippers at the bon dance location over two nights.

“People came forward, dropping off shopping bags filled with slippers,” Tamura said in an email. “One even wrote in Japanese characters, ‘Gambatte,’ or ‘Hang in there,’ on ribbons tied to pairs of slippers. Another kind lady crafted beautifully strap-wrapped slippers with matching hair ties.”

Godwin, after getting the request for aid and getting a press release out, said the response was tremendous, visitors stopping him and presenting him with money for slippers.

The project was named “Locals 4 Sendai.” Locals is a popular brand of rubber slippers, found in almost all of the retail stores throughout the island.

Godwin said he went to the Westside and bought slippers since the collection was taking place in Lihu‘e and on the Eastside.

“Kindness of people helping people touches one’s heart and ‘Locals 4 Sendai’ was a success after all,” Tamura said.

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