Flame of Hope lights the way

LIHUE — Kevin Murphy of First Hawaiian Bank said when you see the smiles of achievement on the faces of the Special Olympics athletes, it makes getting up early Saturday all worthwhile.

First Hawaiian Bank is the title sponsor for the Kauai Special Olympics track and field meet as well as the Troy Barboza Memorial Torch Run, which brings in the Flame of Hope to open the games.

“My wife and I do the Troy Barboza Run, and the best part is coming in to see the athletes putting on their game faces, to hear the starting gun, and see the smiles and faces of accomplishments at the finish line,” Murphy said. “It is such an honor and privilege to have First Hawaiian Bank sponsor these events.”

Kauai Special Olympic athletes and coaches from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Happy Feet, Kauai High School, Kauai Lanakila, Kauai Storm, Kauai Thunderbolts, King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School and Wailua Imua converged for the annual track and field outing at Vidinha Stadium. The crowd burst into applause when Lt. Rod Green of the Kauai Police Department was joined by Special Olympic athlete Chad Okino of the Kauai High School team in bringing the Flame of Hope home with the Troy Barboza runners.

Special Olympic athlete Shane Vegas stopped to compare his new shoes with the colors of the Lihue Patriot football players’ jersies.

“Look at my shoes,” Vegas said. “Underneath, they’re the same colors, red and black, as the uniforms.”

A smile broke out on Alita Smith’s face when she recognized Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who earlier in the week had bestowed a proclamation celebrating the 70th anniversary of Easter Seals of Hawaii.

“Aren’t you going to ask my name?” Caitlyn Aguinaldo wanted to know. “I finished second in the 50 meter run.”

The Kauai Special Olympics track and field meet is the biggest athletic event for its athletes. There are other events, including swimming, bowling, soccer and even specialized events such as weightlifting.

Throughout the rest of the year, Kauai Special Olympics also hosts fundraising events such as the Cop on Top, an annual motorcycle ride and more.

Orange “volunteer” shirts indicating the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa could be seen throughout the stadium, and punctuated the sea of football uniforms from the three public high school football teams and the Kauai Pop Warner Football League. Other groups included the CKMS Jazz Band under the direction of Sarah Tochiki and the Leadership Class with Gayle Thompson as its adviser.

“I’m not here with the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital,” said Josie Pablo. “I’m here to help because Veronica, our daughter, works at the Grand Hyatt. Tonight, we’re moving down to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Again, not as Mahelona, but because we want to support our good friend.”

Waimea High School coach Jason Caldera and Kekaha Titan coach Kealii Aguiar looked on as the sea of jersies joined as students offered their support for the athletes going through the competition.

“This is how it should be,” Aguiar said. “This is very worthwhile.”

Special Olympics is founded on the belief that people with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports. Special Olympics believes that through sports training and competition, people with intellectual disabilities benefit physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

Next on the Special Olympics calendar is the Kauai Softball tournament which will take place Saturday at the Isenberg Park starting at 2:30 p.m.

The Kauai Swim Meet is scheduled for May 28 at the YMCA Pool starting at 9 a.m.

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