The greatest gift

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Loke Sasil, an instructor with the Kapaa Middle School Choir and Ukulele Band, leads a touch of holiday hula, Monday during the Mahelona Hospital holiday lighting festivities.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Santa Claus visits with his fans amidst the Mahelona Hospital holiday lights.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Josie Pablo, the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Kauai Region recreational director, checks on a Mahelona Hospital resident, Monday night during the excitement of the hospital’s holiday lighting festivities.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Elsie Bayot, the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital recreation director, and her staff fetch refreshments for their 10 residents who visited the Mahelona Hospital holiday lighting festivities.

KAPAA — The greatest gift is you, said Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami Monday during the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital lighting festivities.

“It doesn’t matter what gift is under the Christmas tree,” Kawakami said. “The best gift you can give is to be here with us.”

Several hundred people crowded the Mahelona Hospital courtyard and walkways to celebrate the arrival of the holiday season with the hospital’s residents and the 10 residents who visited the festivities from Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital.

“This event was created to spread Christmas cheer and love to our residents so they, too, can feel the magic of the season,” said Josie Pablo, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Kauai Region recreation director. “I look at their faces and I know they are truly grateful to be able to welcome you into their home. This does mean the world to them. Thank you to all who took the time to make their season a little brighter.”

Entertainment started well before the lights were switched on, led by Mary Lardizabal and the Kapaa Middle School Choir and Ukulele Band, followed by the youthful zest of the Kid Fit Crew from the Kapaa Elementary School. Others included Shaunne Souza, Janet Kass, the Showtime Characters and Santa Claus, and Kimberly Hope.

“This is full circle,” said Jay Farias of the Mahelona Hospital who was busy flitting between the many stations that needed help. “One day, I’m going to be there (a kupuna), and I hope there will be people who do this so I can enjoy the season.”

Arnold Leong of the Fah Inn joined the hospital’s culinary department in offering food for sale to holiday revelers and volunteers, including those from Kapaa High School’s organizations, including the Key Club, the Art Club, the Interact Club and JROTC.

Lance Segawa, HHSC Kauai Region CEO, was floored by the support from the community in caring for its elderly population.

Pablo said it takes many hands, especially the hospital’s maintenance and grounds crew and the many community contributors like the Mahelona Hospital Auxiliary, the hospital’s volunteers, and the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, Kauai Branch, to make events like the lighting festivities happen.

Community sponsors such as the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, Deja Vu Surf Hawaii, the Grove Farm Company, the Rotary Club of Hanalei, the Kauai Board of Realtors Young Realtors, the Philippine Island Hawaii Island bicycle club, the Stacie Cantu family, Walmart, the Rotary Club of Kapaa, and the Friends of Derek Kawakami decorate sections of the courtyard resulting in thousands of lights.

“This is a lot of effort by everyone to make this happen,” said Joe Arruda of the hospital’s maintenance and grounds department that includes Tony Bonilla, Brian Kameenui, George Salvador, and Brudda Martin. “Look at all the happy faces of everyone — visitors and residents. And when the people leave, the residents still have this to enjoy through the holidays. It’s all worthwhile.”

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