LIHUE — Dickie Chang is known as the talk story guy.
That’s because he knows how to tell a good tale while engaging an audience. He also knows how to throw a great party and plans to do just that Saturday night in the name of a good cause, Life’s Bridges Hawaii.
And there’s plenty of reason to party.
Wala‘au, Chang’s TV program that features the people, places and happenings on Kauai, is marking 20 years and the local icon is celebrating the anniversary with great food, an exciting atmosphere and professional entertainment. Musical groups Kalapana and Greenstone Project will be on hand to dazzle the crowd.
As far as choosing where to donate the proceeds from the event, that was easy.
“Gina and I were talking about education and awareness,” Chang said about a recent conversation with Gina Kaulukukui, executive director of Life’s Bridges Hawaii, a nonprofit where one of the missions is to raise awareness about suicide prevention. “When I heard the statistics about suicide in Hawaii, I was alarmed. I told Gina I was planning to do this big celebration and party and I never looked back. I knew where I wanted the money to go. I saw the vision.”
Kaulukukui said she appreciated the support on the subject. Nearly 13 percent of Hawaii’s high school students have either thought of committing suicide or committed suicide, the highest in the nation.
“The goal of Life’s Bridges Hawaii is to collectively save lives,” said Kaulukukui. “Mental illness still has a stigma about it. But if we can teach people to recognize when someone may be at risk and to ask them if they are thinking about committing suicide, and refer them to resources, we can make a difference.”
Making a difference is a goal for the Wala‘au celebration at the Kauai Marriott Ballroom.
“The people performing are all my friends,” Chang said of the two bands. “They’re lending their voices vocally and whenever friends need help.”
Suicide is an issue close to the hearts of both bands performing at the party, as Kalapana lost a former member to suicide. Jonathan Rivera from Greenstone Project has had family members take their own lives.
“When I asked Jonathan’s band to play at the benefit, he said, ‘I’ll do mine for free,’” said Rivera.
Tickets for the Wala‘au 20th birthday bash, to which locals and visitors alike are invited, are $75 and include a buffet dinner. To purchase tickets call 635-8800 or 651-6637. The party will begin at 5 p.m.
• Lisa Ann Capozzi,features and education reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.