‘Part of a family’

WAILUA — Gliding through the sparkling open river in their canoe, with the sun sinking low on the horizon, the Puuwai Pink Paddlers in Wailua are a majestic sight. They are more than paddlers, though. They are cancer survivors and supporters “paddling with a purpose.”

Puuwai means “heart,” and these paddlers have plenty of heart, whether it’s shown through their competitive spirit or while they’re supporting cancer survivors.

Brian Currl of Wailua turned the Pink Paddler program into a reality.

“There was no decision; it conforms to everything we believe in, that we already do,” he said.

Change for the better is key for Currl.

“You make the world you live in every day, by your actions, your attitudes, and when you change what you do you change everything,” the 67-year-old said.

The Puuwai Pink Paddler slogan echoes this concept: “Living Every Day.”

“I feel like I am part of a family,” said Maureen Macart of Wailua, emphasizing how supportive the team is of each other, and for those coping with cancer.

After recovering from stage four bone marrow cancer, she jumped right back in the canoe and started paddling again. She counts on paddling and her team.

“I have been paddling my whole life,” she said.

Tom or “Tom-e” Kirkpatrick of Wailua said the idea for starting a Pink Paddler program was inspired by his dedication to his wife, who passed away from breast cancer in 2010.

The Kirkpatricks were determined to live life to the fullest and fought the disease to the very end. They also enjoyed paddling canoes together.

Kirkpatrick moved to Kauai from Maui in 2013, and brought with him an idea inspired by the Manaolana Pink Paddlers.

Manaolana Pink Paddlers are a nonprofit that started in Maui in 2006 to support cancer survivors and their families.

When Kirkpatrick told Currl about the group and his hopes for a similar one here, Currl told him, “Look no further.” The rest is now history.

Kirkpatrick was determined to do everything he could to help.

“We want to inspire not just cancer survivors, but cancer caregivers as well,” he said.

The Puuwai Pink Paddlers will be a part of the Relay for Life Event on Kauai on Aug. 25. In October, the group plans to take part in a 20-mile-plus voyage that will take the Pink Paddlers as far as Lanai. They are seeking funding for the venture.

To donate to the Puuwai Pink Paddlers program, contact Currl at 635-6311 or at puuwai.org.

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