Cyclists spread Malama Pono’s message

PUHI — Eleven-year-old Yudai Yamakawa was an exception to this year’s Paradise Ride over the weekend on Kaua‘i.

“Normally, you would have to be at least 18 to participate,” a registrar at the event said Saturday. “But we allowed Yudai to ride because his father, Masayuki, is riding with him.”

The father-son duo was one of eight teams from Japan who came to Kaua‘i to participate in the annual fundraiser for Malama Pono. The nonprofit’s mission is to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, STDs and infectious hepatitis on Kaua‘i through education and to serve those persons infected with or affected by these diseases. The money raised from the ride is used to cover programs not funded by the feds, state or Kaua‘i United Way.

More than 75 riders took off from the Island School campus for the two-day ride. On Saturday the riders went west to the Salt Pond Beach Park turnaround before returning to the Island School campus.

On Sunday, riders rode east to Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Garden turnaround before returning to the Island School campus.

Leesha Kawamura, one of the riders, said this year there were several riders riding with red ribbons pinned to their jerseys as a tribute to Joni Chang of the San Francisco Bay area.

“She was one of the biggest supporters of Paradise Ride,” Kawamura said. “She came and rode in the Kaua‘i event for several years, each year raising more than $10,000.”

Earlier this year, Chang lost her battle with cancer shortly after giving birth, Kawamura said.

The registrars said Chang, a civil rights attorney, was a participant in Paradise Ride when it was a multi-island event.

Kawamura said she started riding in the Paradise Ride in 2003 when it was a multi-island event, and has participated in the Kaua‘i ride since 2006 when it became an annual event here.

The Paradise Ride Kaua‘i is a fully supported, two-day bicycle ride on the Garden Isle, states the Paradise Ride website. Fully supported means organizers place rest stops along the route stocked with food, water, energy bars, snacks, restrooms and volunteers.

Riders along the route are supported through Support and Gear Vehicle Volunteers (affectionately called “SAGs”), bicycle mechanics, medical assistants and other Paradise Ride Kaua‘i “angels” who guide the riders and place awareness signs along the route.

The ride is produced by Malama Pono Health Services which started as a grass-roots response to HIV on Kaua‘i.

Visit www.malama-pono.org for more information.

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

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