A community rallies around Pereza

Wow.

Talk about people coming together and rallying around someone who could use help, you had a perfect example of that Sunday at Anne Knudsen Park in Koloa. Some 20 teams and 300 people turned out for a kickball tournament. Organizers pulled it together after reading about Malina Pereza in The Garden Island. The story of her fight with acute myeloid leukemia type M4 made the front page of this paper.

While some facing such an illness might despair or wonder “why me,” the 26-year-old Pereza has maintained an optimistic, hopeful attitude. Despite having no insurance and ringing up massive medical bills, and despite still looking at difficult odds, the wife and mother keeps charging ahead, head held high, with dreams of a bright future.

She is most definitely not alone.

Many fundraisers have already been held and more will be held in the days ahead. Friends of the woman who grew up in Puhi are standing by her side. Her brother will be donating stem cells to her. Even people who didn’t know Pereza, but read of her plight, have contributed in some way.

Sunday’s fundraiser, we believe, really was something special, one of those events that stands out for its heart and soul. When a few hundred people come together to play kickball, it’s not just about the game.

Clearly, it’s not about winning or losing or even giving it your best shot. It wasn’t even so much about the money, though that certainly is going to be a wonderful gift for Pereza and her family. It was about people giving of themselves in order to better the days of another. It’s about people wanting to show their support, to let Malina Pereza know that she matters, she is loved. Folks kicking that ball around on Sunday cared enough to stop what they were doing, and is an example of what counts in life — friends, family, faith, love. A simple kickball tournament was one example of what makes Kauai the incredible place it is today.

Pereza said it best: “When you get sick, you realize people and relationships are what matter most. Live Simple.”

We couldn’t agree more. And neither can the other 300 people who played kickball for her on Sunday.

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