Charity Walk countdown at Kukui Grove Saturday

LIHU‘E — Charity Walk organizers are throwing a free countdown event this weekend as a last-minute effort to increase participation in the upcoming fundraising event May 12.

Denise Wardlow, chair of the Kaua‘i 2012 Charity Walk, is inviting people to the Countdown to Charity Walk, to be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Kukui Grove Center, where some of the beneficiaries of Charity Walk proceeds will be available with information on the work they do in the community.

With this year’s theme of “Put Your Best Slippah Forward, a Tradition of Kokua,” the Charity Walk starts at 7 a.m. on May 12 at the Historic County Building in Lihu‘e, winding through a 2.9-mile course around Lihu‘e.

But the excitement starts earlier, at 6:30 a.m. with coffee, warm-up Zumba exercise and safety briefings.

Following the walk, participants can enjoy entertainment, prize drawings and breakfast prepared by chefs from the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, Starwood Hotels Kaua‘i, the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club, the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club and the Kaua‘i Beach Resort.

“We are hoping to achieve our goal of $175,000 this year,” Wardlow said. “Last year, we were able to raise $137,300 and the more money we raise, the more Kaua‘i nonprofit organizations will be able to be supported.”

Wardlow, the general manager of The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, said in many instances, funding for these nonprofit organizations have been cut. Supporting those nonprofits the best we can is our way to give back to the community, she said.

Earlier, the hospitality industry started fundraising efforts for the walk through events such as the “Zumba to the 80s,” spearheaded by the Waiohai and the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i, and the bowling tournament where all 28 lanes were sold out.

Saturday’s event at Kukui Grove features entertainment from the Kapa‘a Middle School Choir and ‘Ukulele Band and from Hawaiian musicians Tommy and Malia.

There will also be a silent auction, walker recruitment stations and displays from nonprofit organizations which are supported by the Kaua‘i Visitor Industry Charity Walk.

Some of these organizations include Leadership Kaua‘i, Hale Opio Kaua‘i, Easter Seals Kaua‘i, Alzheimer’s Association Kaua‘i, American Cancer Society, Catholic Charities Kaua‘i, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity and others.

Wardlow said all monies raised through the Charity Walk stays here to help the nonprofit organizations.

“Mahalo to the Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association for sponsoring this first class charity event, and to all of our island residents for their support,” said Sherri Patrick, executive director of Leadership Kaua‘i, one of the Charity Walk beneficiaries. “Leadership Kaua‘i has been a beneficiary of monies raised and we are grateful for every step taken helps us to grow effective youth and adult leaders in our community.”

The Visitor Industry Charity Walk is a statewide event which takes place on O‘ahu, Maui, Hawai‘i Island, Kaua‘i and Molokai.

Last year, 10,950 walkers across the state raised more than $1,155,000 to help local charities.

The Visitor Industry Charity Walk hosted by the Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association has grown to become one of the largest single-day fundraising event by a nonprofit organization in the State of Hawai‘i, having raised more than $23 million and helping hundreds of local charities since its inception in 1978.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the 2012 Charity Walk. Applications are available at www.charitywalkhawaii.org, any of the Ace Hardware stores and Menehune Food Marts.

Visit www.charitywalkhawaii.org or call Wardlow at 827-8726 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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