PRINCEVILLE — Several photos and a video are spreading across social media of the Kauai Christian Fellowship North Shore Edge youth group that made their way near Queen’s Bath and swam at a nearby location that has been dubbed off limits when the gate is locked.
KCF youth group leader Sarah Hill, who was portrayed by Carrie Underwood in the 2011 film “Soul Surfer,” posted a photo of the adventure on her Facebook page Thursday morning, which soon showed up on Kauai group community pages, where hundreds of comments were made.
The location has claimed the lives of 29 people in recent years, according to “Inside Edition,” which featured an article on Queen’s Bath after Yayun “Lucy” Cheng lost her life on Dec. 5, 2018.
“I’m still frothing over our first epic @northshoreedge_kcf adventure of the summer. We came and conquered QB. Can’t wait for all the other amazing adventures to come with these groms!! Each of them have brought so much blessing to my life,” Hill wrote on her Facebook page.
Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami’s Chief of Staff Sarah Blane responded on social media: “For the first time ever, I have no words. This is beyond comprehension.”
Joseph Wancyzk commented, “If the parents pay money to have people take these kids there and watch them on public lands the company needs permits, which I doubt they got from DLNR. There are other illegal camps on island that use public lands and private lands without permission for financial gain as well.”
Hill responded to the criticism.
“There have been many occasions where people have seen a post of mine and because of one photo, made awful assumptions of me, my team, and the work we are doing! Yesterday, I had a lady take a post I shared, repost it totally attacking me, the work I’m doing with the youth, and my grammar.
“How a post with kids having fun (out in nature, off technology, and drug free), with upwards of 10 plus adults in the water with them, could create such anger got to me! Normally I wouldn’t give an ounce of time to a person like this, but today I had to say something.
“What my pictures don’t show is me sitting by the hospital beds of kids brain dead due to drugs, or with a kid who narrowly escaped death due to self harm, you won’t see parents crying on my shoulder because they lost their child to suicide, nor pictures of our homeless kids getting a hot meal from us weekly, who’s parents are strung out on drugs. What you don’t see in my photos would cripple you if I posted them … it would break you to the core! The things I carry are burdens most turn a blind eye to.
“Kids will go to places us adults won’t approve of, they will go with or without us!! When we are present, those very kids are reminded their life has enough value that someone wants to spend time with them. They will ask hard questions while driving in the vans, and share about things they are facing, things hidden to the outward eye,” Hill said.
The County of Kauai responded to an email inquiry about the situation by stating that if the gate to Queen’s Bath is closed, any access to the area is considered trespassing, which could result in a citation.
Hill responded to The Garden Island with a prepared statement regarding the alleged trespassing incident with the youth group:
“We understand some people are critical of going to queens bath. We live here, and understand the dangers along with the right and wrong time to go down there. We checked ocean conditions, we did not enter through any locked gates, but through a friend’s property. We are always keeping safety as our first priority in everything we do, including being first aid/CPR certified. Our track record shows that to be true.
“We have an array of local kids from all walks of life, and our programs for many of them, get them involved in something bigger than themselves. These local kids have spent their lives enjoying the uniqueness of our island. These are familiar places the kids enjoy.
“These trips aren’t the only thing we offer at KCF. We do camps, retreats, youth group activities, peer to peer team building, and in addition to our sports center, we also collaborate with the Keala Foundation offering free CrossFit to Kauai’s youth.
“For 18 years, I have personally dedicated my life to the youth of Kauai. I Believe Kauai is facing one of the greatest drug epidemics of our time, and we are simply trying to offer students hope in the midst of hopelessness,” she wrote.
Rick Bundschuh, KCF pastor, said their understanding was, if ocean conditions are calm — and they were — it was OK to be at Queen’s Bath.
“We understand while there is gate, the gate is supposed to be open when conditions are safe,” he said. “From what we understand, we were totally legal.”
Bundschuh, a long-time surfer, said he knows Queen’s Bath can be dangerous in the winter, which is why they checked conditions beforehand and went on a calm summer day with plenty of adults to supervise.
He said the church works hard to have activities for children, and it’s a bit frustrating to have people working with young people being criticized for an ocean outing.
“The safety of our kids is our number one priority,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is an activity where someone gets hurt,” he said.
He was surprised there was a bit of an uproar over the visit to Queen’s Bath on social media. It went off as planned, everyone was safe and had fun. Bundschuh said he did not receive any calls voicing concerns.
“We never thought there was a problem until somebody blows it up on Facebook,” he said.
“My goodness,” he added. “What makes news on Kauai.”