PRINCEVILLE — As Kauai County’s Ocean Safety Bureau supervisor, Kalani Vierra is all about saving lives.
But Friday morning, he was all about giving credit to others for doing that.
“You guys are the big lifesavers here today,” Vierra said to officials with the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.
Marc Bennor, Westin director of operations, and others presented the Kauai Lifeguard Association with funds raised during its silent auction at the Eighth annual Jazz and Wine Festival last month.
“We’re proud to present the KLA with a check for $30,000,” Bennor said.
Kilipaki Vaughan, Kauai Fire Department deputy chief, praised KLA’s and the county’s partnership with the Westin and others who contribute to water safety.
He noted that with dangerously high surf this week, “risk reduction efforts have already paid off in many ways.”
“Somebody will benefit already from the generosity of people who come to the Westin, support the visitor industry, support KLA,” he said. “I think it’s really important to honor the community and the Westin for taking the leadership role and providing the tools and resources for us to provide emergency response that is needed on a daily basis here on Kauai.”
The $30,000 has already been put to good use. It went toward a new Ford 4×4 truck, with radio and sirens, for the Haena lifeguard station.
“Thanks to donations like this, we’ve been able on a number of occasions to fill immediate needs,” said Monty Downs, KLA president.
Downs said the Westin goes all out with the Jazz and Wine Festival. This year, it featured world-class wines, island-inspired cuisine and performances by Joyful Noise taiko drumming, local ukulele legend Benny Chong, and the Oahu-based band Adagio. Tickets were $100.
“This is an amazing production that the Westin puts on every year,” Downs said. “They put in a huge amount of work on this from top to bottom.
“The fact that we’re the ones fortunate to be chosen and honored by them with this contribution is very, very special to us,” he said. “It reflects, really, the whole visitor industry supporting ocean safety and the efforts that we’re trying to make in ocean safety.”
KLA, a nonprofit, raises money for equipment and training. In 2016, KLA recorded 120,000 preventative actions and 220,000 personal contacts by lifeguards.
Andy Melamed, KLA marketing director, said when it comes to saving lives, the Kauai community quickly rallies together.
KLA’s Ocean-Minded safety campaign, for example, gained strong support. It has several components, including videos, a brochure, the Junior Lifeguard program, urging people to swim at lifeguarded beaches, and providing safety briefings at resorts.
Melamed said all donations are appreciated and can keep people aware of rip currents, rogue waves and other ocean dangers.
“Everyone can help save lives,” he said.
“The Westin, every year, they come up big-time with us,” Melamed added.
Vierra, who is a KLA board member, said Kauai is a small island, but a national leader in ocean safety. The Rescue Tube Foundation, the county’s roving patrols and its lifeguard programs are examples of its commitment to protecting people.
“We’re doing, to me, the most efforts on ocean safety awareness education and training,” he said.
“All these different things we are doing on Kauai are making a big difference statewide, so people are following our lead.”