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Above and beyond

LIHUE — A fundraiser Super Bowl Sunday for Hulali Rivera, a 4-year-old from Anahola, proved more than successful. 

The goal was to raise $5,000. Instead, the event brought in $7,600 for the young girl and her family, according to Jody Valente, owner of Kalapaki Joe’s.

Over $10,000 in prizes were donated to the cause.

As it has for the last several years, the chain of Kauai sports bars held a “lucky drawing” during the big game to raise money for a local person in need. This year, it benefited Hulali, who was diagnosed at 8 months old with bilateral retinoblastoma — a rare cancer of the retinas.

Hulali’s parents, Anolani Higashi and Kelo Rivera, said they are incredibly grateful for all the support they received. 

“Big mahalo to Jody and his staff at Kalapaki Joe’s for all that they did!” she wrote in an email. “To everyone that donated prizes and gave monetary donations, mahalo nui! To my hula sisters that helped at each location, we love you guys! To our friends and family and everyone that came out that day, thank you guys so much.”

Higashi said her family spent the game at the Kalapaki Joe’s Kukui Grove Shopping Center location, and surrounded by a full house.

“And my hula sisters were at the other locations and they all said it was a great turnout,” she wrote. 

The money raised at all four Kalapaki Joe’s restaurants — in Nawiliwili, Lihue, Poipu and Waimea — was donated directly to the family. 

Following her diagnosis, Hulali spent almost four months in California undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. The therapy worked, the tumors disappeared and she and her mother traveled home to Kauai. During a monthly eye checkup three months later, however, doctors discovered that the tumors had returned, and Hulali was again flown to Los Angeles. That second time around, the disease was even more aggressive and ultimately cost the child her right eye.

Two tumors were also discovered in Hulali’s brain during an MRI. After conducting a brain biopsy, doctors diagnosed her with choroid plexus papilloma — a rare, slow-growing mass of tissue that produces cerebrospinal fluid. Since her brain surgery, Hulali has had two seizures and was recently diagnosed with epilepsy, which a neurologist believes could be a result of the biopsy procedure.

The family continues to travel to Oahu and California for routine checkups.

“As always, we ask to continue to keep Hulali in your prayers!” Higashi said.

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