For months, local television personality Dickie Chang and Rep. James Tokioka have discussed how to help the University of Hawaii’s athletic program’s financial troubles.
The pair, along with the group “We Get ‘Em! Kauai,” are hosting a benefit concert to help UH’s athletics department. “We Get ‘Em! Kauai” is the local grassroots of “We Get ‘Em! Hawaii,” which is spearheading an effort to raise money for the university’s athletic program.
“The more we talked about it, nobody really stepped up. We said, ‘Let’s be the first. Why not Kauai be the first?’” Chang said, who will be the emcee at the event. “University of Hawaii athletics is Hawaii’s team. It’s not just Oahu. It’s the whole state.
“This will help us make noise, and when we do, hopefully the guys on Maui and Big Island and everyone else will get on board,” he added. “We might not raise the most money, but we’ll be the first. We’ll create the buzz and hopefully everyone will join in.”
The university’s athletics program anticipated a $3.5 million deficit for the current year. Athletic director Ben Jay announced his resignation in December, but will hold the position through June while the university searches for a replacement.
Tokioka said he has extra motivation to help because his son, Justin “Pono” Tokioka, plays for the UH men’s golf team.
“I think even if Pono wasn’t going to the university, I would still want to participate. But it gives me added incentive to help,” he said.
“There’s been discussions about whether there should be an athletics program. I cannot imagine the University of Hawaii without an athletics program. The key thing for us is that the community gets involved,” he added. “It’s our university. It’s our program and it’s our kids.”
Tokioka said he will attend the event.
We Get ‘Em! Hawaii co-founder Don Murphy said he and the other founders started the movement several months ago. He’s also the owner of Murphy’s Bar & Grill in Honolulu and a sponsor of Na Koa, the booster club for the Rainbow Warrior football program.
“We understand the importance of the university to the whole state. We just want to help out,” Murphy said. “We said, ‘Let’s just take the bull by the horns and see if we can do some good to see if we can help out.
“Maybe they’ll inspire other neighbor islands to get involved, so I think it’s terrific,” he added about the Kauai benefit concert.
Murphy said about $40,000 has been raised so far, but will wait to donate the money until the university has hired a new athletic director and has the chance to personally discuss how the funds will be used.
“We want to do something that is tangible so they (donors) can see where their money is going, whether it be a new batting cage for baseball, or whatever,” he said.
The concert is scheduled 4 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Kilohana Plantation. Performers will include musical acts Brother Noland and Kalapana, as well as comedy group Da Braddahs & Friends.
Tickets are $25 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the Kauai Community College bookstore in Puhi, the Aston Aloha Beach Hotel and Pono Market in Kapaa, King Auto Center in Lihue, and The Wine Shop in Koloa.
Info: 635-8800, wegetemhawaii.com