Life’s a beach!

Erin Young of Denver watched as the caravan of wheelchairs crunched their way along the special Americans with Disabilities Act mobi-mat securely laid out to the water’s edge Tuesday at Morgan’s Ponds at the Lydgate Park.

“My husband and son are enjoying the water on the other side of the group,” Young said from the shade of a beach tree. “My parents passed last year, and they would have loved this. I wish we had a program like this in Colorado when my parents could have enjoyed it.”

The Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital spearheaded its summer beach outing to Lydgate Park, the collaborative efforts between the volunteers and county enabling about 40 residents an opportunity to enjoy the beach, water, and a picnic. The Mahelona Hospital group was joined by a busload of residents from the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital.

“This is awesome,” said Annelise Soderstrom of Lihue, watching her father, Ove Jensen, enjoy the water atop a special floater. “To be able to get out is really good. Dad gets to come home twice a week and we come walking here, but I’m not competant enough to get him in the water.”

Soderstrom said she comes to many functions Mahelona Hospital plans for its residents.

“It’s so cool to see so many families come out, and the volunteers from the Kauai Community College nursing program are just wonderful,” she said. “Dad also goes with the KORE program. This is such a good program for people.”

Among the spectators, the Hawaii Health System Corp. new CEO Peter Klune sat and chatted with family members while keeping an eye on the activity.

“The helpers are just as excited as the residents,” said Klune. “This is very interesting. I watched the preparation process and it was like an automobile assembly line — everyone knew what needed to be done and did it. We have so many helpers it looks like we have five volunteers for each resident. And Josie Pablo, the Mahelona recreation director? She’s in the thick of everything.”

Ryan Ichikawa, a Kauai High School graduate and one of the 21 KCCC nursing student volunteers, said the ocean has therapeutic value, and it was the first time he experienced the joy and happiness of kupuna who come to the beach.

“This is my first time doing something like this,” said Robin Moura, a Waimea High School graduate who is in the KCC nursing program. “It’s so great to see everyone so happy to be with their families and all the volunteers.”

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