Special Olympians shine in rain

LAWAI — Chaunci Cummings is the sole Kauai participant selected for the Special Olympics World Summer Games slated for July 25 through Aug. 2 in Los Angeles.

Cummings will be joined by Ikaika Morita-Sunada of Oahu and Isaiah Wong of Kona when she takes the field in the event featuring athletes from 170 nations competing in 17 sports.

“I’m excited,” Cummings said, minutes before reporting for her shift at the Lawai Cannery Self Storage and Warehouse garage sale Sunday benefiting the Kauai Special Olympics program. “I’m leaving July 20 and will participate in track and field. Hopefully, I’ll do good because I ended the state games on Oahu with a silver medal in the 100-meter dash and a gold medal in the shot put.”

Jocelyn Barriga, Kauai Special Olympics area coordinator, said proceeds from the Lawai Cannery event won’t benefit Cummings specifically, but will help keep the program going for 115 Kauai participants. Kauai Special Olympics relies on grants and donations from the community.

“Chaunci is an amazing athlete,” said Tamarind Mapuhi, her coach. “She’s been working really hard for the World Games in all of the events she’s participating in, coming to practice at least three times a week. With the use of just one arm, Chaunci’s best event is the shot put. She has perfect form and can really place the shot.”

Mapuhi said Cummings has a hectic schedule in addition to her participation at the World Games.

“She’s leaving for the World Games in a few weeks,” the coach said. “When she gets back, she leaves for Aukake in two days. That is a rough schedule.”

Mapuhi is one of the coaches at the schools who work with Unified Partners, peers who work with Special Olympic athletes. She said there are about 50 Unified students at Kapaa High School.

Erin Dunn coordinates the Unified students at Kauai High School and works with about 50 students. She is looking for ways to incorporate interested students from Waimea High School.

Amanda Fretto returned to the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School to serve as the Unified coach, working with more than 30 students.

“This is our third year with the Unified program,” Fretto said. “The students work with athletes in track and field programs and bowling.”

Lorna Santos of the Lawai Cannery Self Storage and Warehouse said the facility offers the space to Special Olympics.

The hosting beneficiary coordinates vendors and the sale.

“The nonprofits do all the work,” Santos said.

Despite the humid and drizzly weather, a steady stream of shoppers poked through the Lawai facility in search of bargains.

“We come every year,” said Paulianne Werthwein of Temple City, Calif., who bought several bags of clothing. “We have a house in Koloa and when we come to visit, if the sale is happening, we’re here.”

Barriga said the Kauai Special Olympics appreciates the support.

“The rain we have is a blessing,” Barriga said. “We work with between $65,000 to $75,000 a year to operate the program, including getting trophies, awards and shirts for our athletes. We are grateful and appreciative of whatever help we receive.”

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