KAPAHI — Health, adventure and environmental stewardship: Those were the words Brad Parker lived by.
Parker, who lived for four years in Kapahi, died in August 2014 while climbing the Matthes Crest in Yosemite National Park. He was an avid surfer, rock climber, cyclist, massage therapist and yoga teacher.
After his death, his family, who lives in the Wailua Houselots, was left to pick up the pieces. Months later, as a way to heal, they started a non-profit organization, called the B-Rad Foundation. Their mission is to honor him through projects that support his ideals.
“We have come together as a community to honor Brad through projects that support community wellness, environmental stewardship, outdoor adventure and, most importantly, our youth,” said Matt Parker, Brad’s brother and B-Rad Foundation board president.
Gayle Parker, his mother, who also serves on the board of the foundation, agreed.
“Brad was a big believer in bringing the community together for the good of the community, the good of the land and future generations,” she said.
The B-Rad Foundation is partnering with the Kauai Surfrider Foundation and Kauai public schools, not only to make Kauai a more beautiful place, but also to educate Kauai keiki on the importance of taking care of themselves and the land.
During the 2015-16 school year, the foundation partnered with Kanuikapono Charter School in Anahola. Volunteers met with sixth-graders, giving presentations and taking the students on field trips.
“Because we believe that the keiki of the next generation are our most precious resource, we are beyond stoked that our first program ran as smoothly as it did,” said Matt Parker.
The first field trip, which underscored the environmental stewardship theme, took students to Anahola Beach, where they collected over 400 pounds of debris. Following the health theme, the students then went to Fehring Farm in Kilauea, where they spent the day planting and harvesting their own food.
At the end of the day, students used the ingredients they picked to make a pizza.
“Our hearts were bursting open with joy and pride, and we felt Brad’s presence,” Gayle Parker said. “I was listening to the students sing their song of gratitude, and I can’t tell you how that affected me.”
The last field trip, which highlighted adventure, took the students on a 2-mile kayak trip down the Wailua River and a hike to Secret Falls.
Ipo Torio-Kauhane, executive director of Kanuikapono Charter School, said she was impressed by the group’s professionalism.
“As an educator, I was watching them, and they were so natural,” she said. “You’d think they were professional teachers.”
Their love for the cause was infectious, she added.
“They did some wonderful activities with the kids that were engaging,” Torio-Kauhane said. “There was a lot of joy in learning, and they were nurturing. The kids really enjoyed it.”
The B-Rad Foundation also partnered with Kapaa Middle School’s art teacher to create mosaics out of trash collected on beach cleanups.
Recently, the foundation teamed up with the Kauai Surfrider Foundation, in an effort to clean up the beaches.
“He loved the ocean, so we wanted to do something to honor him,” Matt Parker said.
In 2015, the two foundations collected more than 30,000 pounds of marine debris from Kauai’s beaches. Hard plastics and fish netting are recycled and reused, while other pieces of rubbish are disposed of properly.
Robert Zelkovsky, media specialist for the Kauai Surfrider Foundation, appreciates the group’s enthusiasm.
“They attract a younger crowd, with the students who come to the cleanups. The way for the world to change is through children,” he said.
Zelkovsky says Surfrider has done 10 beach cleanups with B-Rad.
“We focus on the Eastside beaches because that’s where the debris is collected,” he said.
Beaches from Moloaa to Hanamaulu have been cleaned by the groups, Zelkovsky said.
During one of the cleanups, some of the students wrote a message to Brad in the sand, Gayle Parker said. The students wrote, “Be rad, Brad,”and framed it with shells and driftwood.
“It made my heart sing,” she said. “These kids love Brad now, and they know who he is and what he stood for.”
The foundation has expanded to California and Utah.
“Our deepest hope is that many, many lives will be touched because of Brad’s time here on Earth, and that his spirit will continue to guide our efforts to create stewards of the land, more socially and environmentally conscious youth, and unite communities in projects that matter,” said his father, Bill Parker.
Even though it’s hard to talk about her son’s death, knowing the foundation is worthwhile keeps her going, Gayle Parker said.
“I do it because I love my son, and I believe in the work we’re doing,” she said. “I know he is so proud of us.”
Matt Parker says the work has helped him heal.
“The foundation has helped me piece back together my broken heart into a way of giving back to our Earth and all the beautiful creatures that inhabit it,” he said. “Being able to honor my brother in these profound ways, ensuring a bright future for our keiki here on island and elsewhere, feels life-affirming.”
More information, or to get involved, go to: http://www.b-radfoundation.org/