KALAHEO — A football cheer came close to bringing tears to the eyes of El Doi of the state’s Department of Health during Sunday’s JAMZ cheer camp hosted by the Kauai Pop Warner Football League at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.
“Mauka to makai, Bully-free Kauai!” the cheerleaders chanted as Doi was joined by PCNC coordinator Judy Cano and KPWFL Commissioner Teddy Arroyo in rolling out the Kauai Anti-Bullying Campaign banner during a break at the annual JAMZ Camp for cheerleaders and their coaches.
The cheer was developed while waiting on several hundred young people who gathered for an anti-bullying sign waving campaign on Aug. 1, coinciding with the season opening for the Pop Warner football program on Kauai.
“I was so proud to hear all those people,” Doi said. “I wanted to cry. The group and the community is so supportive of this program.”
Doi said the seeds were planted during a legislative forum on people with disabilities, and a complaint brought forward by a child who was bullied because of a disability. This happened two years ago, and since then, the anti-bullying campaign has grown.
“How many of you have been bullied at school?” Doi asked the group of 116 cheerleaders and 50 coaches. “Augie T., the host of the anti-bullying movement at the Kukui Grove Center on Sept. 12, also had his children bullied while they were in school.”
More than half of the cheerleaders and nearly all of the JAMZ team leaders raised their hands in response to her question.
“We need people to say ‘Stop!’ to bullying,” Doi said. “We need to change the way of thinking of an entire generation, and it starts with the young people.”
Stacie Chiba-Miguel, the real estate manager at Kukui Grove Center, said the anti-bullying rally on Sept. 12 will feature Augie T. hosting the event which will feature a resource fair, entertainment from Tsunami Taiko and the Pop Warner cheerleaders.
Banners similar to the one unrolled at the JAMZ camp will be available for community sponsors, groups or individuals, who want to enable the banners to be placed at schools.
“Sponsorship is very minimal,” Chiba-Miguel said. “Sign Art has come up with a special price which enables a lot of people to participate in getting a banner up at a school. There was a grandmother who anonymously sponsored a banner for the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School, and another grandparent who wants one at the Eleele Elementary School.”
Doi said the KPWFL has agreed to fly the banner at each of their season games as a show of support for the anti-bullying campaign, and Val Rita, mother of KPWFL coaches, said she wants three banners, including one to display at the preschool she operates.
“Anti-bullying efforts need to start at an early age,” Rita said. “There are examples of bullying even as young as preschool.”
Arroyo said he was pleased when he received a phone call from Kauai Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki following the Aug. 1 anti-bullying sign-waving campaign.
“We’re more than a football or cheer team,” Arroyo said. “We’re glad to be able to support a program like this where we, as coaches and parents, can learn along with our youth. One day, when El asks how many kids have been bullied, I don’t want to see any hands, or if there are some, a lot less than we saw today.”
Doi said she feels encouraged by the amount of support shown from the community, including the legislators who sponsored three iPads as incentives for the anti-bullying campaign, in addition to authoring legislation.
“This is so special,” Doi said. “And to think, it all started after a young person suffering from a disability complained about being bullied.”