Nearly 2,000 walkers turn out to help local nonprofits

LIHU‘E — The money is still coming in, said Denise Wardlow, chairperson of the Visitor Industry Charity Walk Saturday.

More than 1,900 walkers representing the visitor industry, beneficiary groups and the community turned out Saturday morning to help raise more than $156,000 with more money coming in, said Wardlow, the general manager of The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.

The effort was bolstered by the top individual fundraiser, Lani Ridings, who topped all fundraisers with a $2,631 effort, followed by perennial high-energy fundraiser Jeanette Ridings, whobrought in $2,053. Nick Nacion raised more than $1,650 to fill in the third-place spot.

All of the individual top fundraisers earned Safeway gift cards and an assortment of hotel stays, airline fares and dinner packages.

Sandi Kato-Klutke of the Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association’s Kaua‘i Chapter, said people can still contribute.

With a theme of “Put Your Best Slippah Forward, a Tradition of Kokua,” walkers representing Hawaiian Airlines donned special “Team Kokua” t-shirts, along with numerous corporate groups sporting their own unique shirts for this year’s walk.

The Kapa‘a High School football team, still rubbing their eyes from the Green-and-White spring football scrimmage Friday night, manned the finish line with gusto, distributing gifts to each of the 1,900 walkers as they crossed the line following the 2.9-mile Lihu‘e tour.

Chef Martina Hildorfer and Steve Nakata rebounded from the Kaua‘i Community College graduation Friday night, accompanying a contingent of culinary arts students to help chefs from the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, the Kaua‘i Beach Resort, the Starwood Group and the Marriott International ‘Ohana.

Proceeds from the single-day fundraiser stays on Kaua‘i, Wardlow said. Last year, the proceeds were able to provide funds to 40 of Kaua‘i’s nonprofit organizations.

The Visitor Industry Charity Walk is a statewide event which takes place on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island, Kaua‘i, Maui, and Moloka‘i during the month of May.

In 1974, the Hawai‘i Hotel Association sponsored a charitable “Superwalk” to benefit one major charitable organization. In 1978, this was changed to extend the reach of support offered by the walk’s fundraising, resulting in the formation of the Visitor Industry Charity Walk.

Since then, the HLTA walk has grown to become one of the largest single-day fundraising events by a nonprofit organization in the State of Hawai‘i, raising more than $23 million to help hundreds of local charities since 1978.

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

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