WAILUA — Woodbridge High School football head coach Rick Gibson doesn’t usually like his team’s workout interrupted.
But Tuesday, he was just fine with it.
Gibson sent a half a dozen of his stoutest players to help a Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital outing at Lydgate Park.
“This is one of the best things we’ve done on this trip,” Gibson said.
The outing, scheduled to coincide with a study tour by the Okinawa Prefectural College of Nursing students, was hampered by a shortage of manpower, said Mahelona staff member Elaine Morita.
“We had to cut back on the number of beach equipment to bring because we knew we didn’t have the helpers,” said Josie Pablo, the hospital’s recreation director. “Having the football players coming to help is awesome. We were able to get more than double the amount of residents to enjoy the water.”
The players helped carry patients and equipment to the water. The original six were soon joined by the rest of the team, creating a scene of fun and excitement in the waters of Morgan’s Ponds.
“A lot of the boys have grandparents and helping here is a life lesson. This is one of the finest ways of giving back,” said Gibson, who was still sporting his goodwill “Menehune football” shirt.
Sharon Harlow, a visitor from Texas, watched the scene. “It’s so important for people to know about volunteerism,” said Harlow, whose feelings of awe were heightened when she learned the football players were also visiting from California and working alongside students from Okinawa.
Brian Yamamoto, a Kauai Community College instructor, said this presented an excellent example of many facets of education.
“This is cross cultural — an example of learning without walls and more,” he said. “Things like this just happen and we are fortunate to see it take place. Look at the students. When they got here, they were afraid of the water, but look at them — they’re all wet and having fun.”
Placido Valenciano, the physical therapist at Mahelona, was familiar with the football team and officiated Saturday night’s game where Woodbridge got past Waimea, 13-0.
“Having the boys working with the hospital staff and the Okinawa students is like having the East meeting the West,” Valenciano said.