HANAPEPE — When Waimea High School junior Keanu Kia-Kinzie learned his special education teacher, Maude Nalani Shigematsu, was suffering from bone cancer, he knew he needed to help.
“She always help us out,” Kia-Kinzie said. “She’s a nice lady, always helping out people, so I just wanted to help her out a little bit.”
Kia-Kinzie and his friends decided to hold a smoked meat fundraiser Sunday in Hanapepe to help provide financial support for his teacher in her fight against the disease.
Shigematsu’s assistant, Yvette Nakahiki, donated five pigs for the smoked meat — but that wasn’t enough for the hungry customers. When the plate lunches and bags of smoked meat sold out, the group decided to sell their lunches of chicken hekka as well.
They raised more than $1,200 for Shigematsu, plus donations.
As she collected money and took orders, WHS senior Nene Santos said she was happy to support her friend and his teacher.
“She’s an amazing person,” she said. “Any way that we can help her, we’ll do it.”
When Shigematsu discovered the plan, she was surprised by Kia-Kinzie’s thoughtfulness.
“I was in shock because I never expected something like this,” she said.
This is the second time Shigematsu has battled cancer. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and underwent treatments. Earlier this year, she began to feel pain in her lower back. After visiting a doctor for her yearly check-up, she discovered that the cancer had moved into her eighth rib, pelvis, spine and left femur bone.
The cancer is currently in stage four but Shigematsu said that she is handling it well.
“I just had my first chemotherapy on Thursday,” Shigematsu said. “Ever since I had the first chemo, it’s been really good ‘cause I had pain, so I had difficulty walking and all that kind of stuff, but now it’s better.”
When the news became known, WHS students rallied to help.
“It was mostly Anu’s idea, he has the biggest heart I know,” said Shigematsu’s son, Theron Shigematsu. “It feels good to come out and help this good cause and good idea that Anu had. My mom does everything for our family.”
Kia-Kinzie’s family members also played a large role in helping — they cooked the pork, corn and rice for the students to sell.
When Kia-Kinzie approached his family with the idea of helping his teacher, with whom he has a special bond, he said they were more than happy to pitch in, especially his grandmother Makana Kia.
“We’re a tight family and any time one of us needs help, we all come out,” Kia said. “Any good cause, we’re willing to help out.”
Shigematsu has been out of school, but is looking forward to getting back to teaching today.
“I love all of my students,” she said. “They’re the drive behind everything, besides my kids at home. I miss them a lot, really good kids, really good students.”