Grateful and ready

KAPAA — Before Saturday morning, Sarah Manuel was feeling “a little stressed out.”

She had to pull together a 5k fun run/walk, entertainment, craft booths, food vendors and prizes for the Children’s Miracle Network fundraiser at Kapaa Beach Park.

Midmorning, she was relaxed and smiling. With help from supporters, the event was in full swing and going well with guests enjoying music, chocolate-covered bananas, mingling with artists and exercising on a sunny day.

Miss Garden Isle was pleased.

“I’m just grateful,” Manuel said.

The Children’s Miracle Network fundraiser was part of her journey to the Miss Hawaii competition on June 11 in Honolulu.

The organization is near to her heart because when she was 5 years old, she underwent surgery at Kapiolani, Hawaii’s only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

The operation went well and today, Manuel has a rib bone in her chest to correct a sunken chest, medically known as pectum excavatum.

She laughed as she recounted that she was the only child about to undergo anesthesia who was not crying.

“Because of that, now I want to be an anesthesia nurse so I can give back that same comforting feeling and make sure kids are OK,” said Manuel, who is attending Kauai Community College. “I want to make sure the kids going into surgery, they have the support I had.”

It’s another reason why exercise is important to the fit 24-year-old, and motivated her to put on the fun run and walk. About 25 people headed out on Ke Ala Hele Makalae shortly after a Zumba warmup.

“I need to make sure my lungs are working properly,” Manuel said. “I’m doing what is right for my body, what my body needs.”

In the coming weeks, she’ll be getting ready for Miss Hawaii — interviews, talent, workouts and outfits.

“I need to make sure I’m mentally and physically prepared for this,” the 2010 Kapaa High School graduate said.

Last year, Manuel was first runner-up. This year, she hopes to win.

“Being Miss Hawaii means spreading my message about healthy living and positive lifestyle and promoting the Children’s Miracle Network,” she said.

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