LIHU‘E — Millie Ah Hee, the Kaua‘i Pop Warner Football Association’s scholastic coordinator, has been selected as the Wescon Female Volunteer of the Year, KPWFA commissioner Teddy Arroyo announced Monday following his return from the Wescon conference.
“This is quite an honor for Aunty Millie because Wescon involves 13 states in the West Region of the national Pop Warner program,” Arroyo said. “Additionally, not everyone can be nominated for the honor — the nominee needs to have volunteered for at least 10 years.”
He said Ah Hee was nominated by the KPWFA during the Wescon conference and Ah Hee was up against three other women.
“It came down to the voting at the end,” Arroyo said. “Our Aunty Millie got the most votes. There was another person who was nominated who had 25 years of service with a lot of drastic things taking place in her life.”
Arroyo said the voting was based on the camaradiere among the states, and he was proud to say Kaua‘i is the smallest organization in Westcon with just five associations, but the ability to work with each other is strong.
“It was so surreal,” Ah Hee said, noting the last Female Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Marilyn Yamaguchi back in the 1980s. “I was sitting there listening to all the things being said and it was like someone else.”
Arroyo said this is a great way to start the 2012 Pop Warner football season.
“Our biggest news is the reinstatement of our non-profit status,” Arroyo said. “Everyone in the association was up for it and worked hard to make this happen. Having the non-profit status reinstated like having a dark cloud lifted from us.”
This year, the 50th anniversary of Pop Warner football on Kaua‘i, is special, Arroyo said.
“First off, the Junior Pee Wee division gets the draw for championship, our Kaua‘i winner playing Maui for the right to meet O‘ahu,” Arroyo said. “This is also our 50th anniversary and we plan to make the Jamboree special. We want to bring back the floats and the parade, starting at the historic County Building and ending at Vidinha Stadium. We’ll start working on this, now.”
Arroyo is quick to admit the achievements of KPWFA is due in part to the commitment and dedication demonstrated by Ah Hee and all of the people in the Lihu‘e, Kapa‘a, Hanapepe, Kekaha and Koloa associations.
“’Volunteer’ is an easy word to use,” Arroyo said. “If you can survive for three years, then you are a true ‘volunteer.’ These people make me feel good because of all that we have accomplished and how many more are out there who are not recognized?”
He said through Ah Hee’s efforts, scholastics in the Kaua‘i Pop Warner program went up five percent in the number of applications for scholar-athlete programs. Nationally, KPWFA finished at more than 97 percent and this year, that number should be higher due to a lot of the Kapa‘a Eagles “aging up” and becoming eligible for the scholar-athlete program.
“One cheerleader, Tori Dalicon-Kamoku, was placed on the All-American Second Team,” Arroyo said. “The credit goes to Aunty Millie who keeps policing the kids and the associations.
Ah Hee started with the KPWFA program 10 years ago as a director for the Kapa‘a association where her granddaughter was a cheerleader, advancing to serve as the association’s scholastic coordinator and later, moving up to take over the league’s scholastic coordinator responsibilities in 2006, according to the nomination form.
In 2007, Ah Hee’s daughter, Holly, another loyal volunteer for the island, was diagnosed with brain cancer, Ah Hee becoming Holly’s sole caregiver for more than a year until Holly passed in August, 2008.
“Carrying such a heavy burden did not stop Aunty Millie from ever missing a beat with Kaua‘i Pop Warner,” said Sherri Agosto, the KPWFA president, in the nomination. “Instead of taking time off to heal, she came back to the league in September, 2008, just a month after her daughter’s passing, working non-stop in her duties, since.”
Agosto said Ah Hee has been a pillar of strength for the Kaua‘i Pop Warner.
“She is always willing and ready to do whatever it took to find ways in rewarding athletes for their grades and accomplishments,” Agosto said in the nomination. “She has worked endlessly in getting our By-laws up to par along with finding opportunities to assist the rest of the team, her efforts ranging from site visits, certification of football and cheer participants, being a substitute timer for games, or even traveling to Philadelphia with a child so that child could be nationally recognized among the best.”
With the passing of Holly, Ah Hee said Kekaha Elementary School, the last school Holly taught at, is offering a scholarship to a graduating high school senior who attended Kekaha School for at least three years, the application being available at the school counselor’s office.
“Athough her daughter Holly is no longer with us, Aunty Millie carries her spirit wherever she goes,” Agosto said. “It was Holly’s spirited energy which brought life to wherever she was and it is this very spirit which she brings that we are most grateful for. Her efforts and sacrifices have not gone unnoticed and although we can never repay her for her generosity, we definitely want her to be honored for her outpouring of selfless acts.”
Ah Hee will be traveling to Florida in late May to accept her award.
For more information on the Kaua‘i Pop Warner program, call Arroyo at 634-5635.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.