KORE program helps physically challenged get back in the ocean

Editor’s note: The Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association has settled upon 11 non-profit organizations and programs on Kaua‘i that focus on ocean safety, training and education. This is one of 11 articles on the newly formed “KLA ‘Ohana” — groups that will benefit from the 2012 KLA 2nd Wave “Help Save Lives” campaign. This article is on the “KORE” Program.

 

LIHU‘E — Laura Mission never misses the opportunity to get into the water. Mission has been fighting debilitating brain tumors since the first ones were found and removed in 1995, when she was just a teenager. As she continues to fight her condition, Mission has become increasingly immobile and confined to a wheelchair. For Laura Mission and others like her, access to the water with trained watermen all around allows them to swim, surf, socialize, and enjoy the beach each month through Kaua‘i Ocean Recreation Experience.

Kurt Leong, a Hanalei firefighter, and Suzie Woolway, a speech therapist who is transitioning from ‘Ohana Sports Medicine to ‘Ohana Home Healthcare, came together when they each saw the need for a program of this type, but found nothing available for Kaua‘i. So they joined together to form KORE under the umbrella of the YMCA in 2009.

Today, KORE conducts a monthly beach party at Black Pot Beach in Hanalei for Kaua‘i’s physically challenged and their families, offering tents, gear, food, live music with amazing island musicians, and over 100 skilled and organized volunteers. These volunteers are therapists, doctors, nurses, lifeguards, firefighters, surfers, and caring people throughout the island in attendance to make each day all it can be for the participants.

“The outpouring of support all along has been both humbling and exciting,” said Leong. “In the beginning we had nothing, and just through seeing what we were trying to do and word-of-mouth, people have continued to support us through donations.” As he looks around at the beach scene, there are safe mats in the sand for rolling “mobi-chairs,” big-wheeled flotation wheelchairs for quadripledgics to get safely into and out of the water. There is a trailer with various sizes of life vests and rash guards, boards and paddles — everything needed to help provide supervised help for the physically challenged to enjoy the water.

Mission and her mother, Irene Nada, live in Ele‘ele and make the monthly drive to Black Pot Beach in Hanalei at every opportunity. “I love the water, and it feels so good to get in,” said Mission. “Everyone with KORE is helpful and knows what they’re doing to help me. I never miss a day, and would come even more often if it were possible.” The brain tumors she battles have limited her movement, but the sincerity in her beautiful brown eyes and the lift in her spirits clearly shows the value of a day in the ocean.

For more information, visit KORE’s website at www.korekauai.com and their Facebook page at Kore Kaua‘i (and thanks to Thomas Duffy for his volunteer maintenance of their Facebook page).

• Last year, Kaua‘i had a significant reduction in the number of drownings thanks to the success of the 2011 KLA 1st Wave Campaign. For details on how you can support this year’s KLA 2nd Wave ocean safety program, go to kauailifeguards.org. Businesses and individuals can also contact Andy Melamed at 808-482-0218 or e-mail andy@kongradio.com.

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