LIHUE — Shane Tokita helped create a holiday memory Saturday.
“I got Koa Nii a gingerbread house kit to work on,” said Tokita, a former Easter Seals worker. “His mom, grandmother and aunty are all working on it with him.”
The kits were the center of the Easter Seals Gingerbread Family Festival which unfolded Saturday at Kukui Grove Center with the support of community groups and sponsors.
“We had more than 200 kits to start,” said Ellen Ching, the Kauai Easter Seals director. “There were a lot of kits to go, and with all of the people coming, we should sell out.”
The Saturday event is part of a statewide Easter Seals campaign; two events took place last week, with Kauai and Oahu hosting festivals this weekend.
Kathy Perry-Oganeko of the Longs Drugstore corporate office in Kapolei on Oahu has been traveling with the events as a representative of the title event sponsor.
Perry-Oganeko was at the Kukui Grove event along with the Geico Gecko, another major sponsor, encouraging young builders and distributing prizes.
“Kathy has been to Maui and the Big Island before coming here,” Ching said. “Longs Drugs, as a major sponsor, provides all of the tablecloths and Kathy even brought over Longs Drugstore staff from Oahu to help out.”
Other volunteers included Mary Lardizabal, the director of the Kapaa Middle School ukulele band and choir, who provided some of the entertainment for the morning.
“My two children were helped by Easter Seals,” Lardizabal said. “Easter Seals is such a wonderful organization which reaches people all over this island with help. I’ve been helping them since they started this event here 13 years ago.”
FM97 Radio had its volunteers out. Ching noted that the local FM radio station has also been helping since the inception of the gingerbread festival.
The Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School leadership class had nearly 20 students helping from early in the morning.
“We had to be here early to help set up the tables, get the gingerbread kits ready for people,” said Cheyann Fujii, the CKMS student who led the student volunteers. “Now that people are working on the kits, we’re distributing tattoos for the kids and helping to change out the tables when people are done.”
Fujii said she got the CKMS leadership class involved after being introduced to a friend’s grandmother who worked for Easter Seals.
“The students have Project Unified with the Special Olympics program as a service project,” said Gayle Thompson, the CKMS leadership class adviser. “Easter Seals is related to Project Unified so the students just jumped right into it. This is our first time.”
Easter Seals Hawaii provides individualized family-centered services to empower people with disabilities or special needs to achieve their goals and live independent lives. Kauai has Easter Seals centers in Kapaa, Lihue and Waimea.