‘The Last Hurrah’

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Tora Smart of Hanalei Strings, right, and Maile Bryan of the Strings of Joy committee, get help from Denise Kaufman, an Island School founding mother and Smart’s mother, in unloading Kala ‘ukulele for graduating seniors Friday at Kukui Grove Center in Lihu‘e.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Tora Smart of Hanalei Strings sets up Kala ‘ukulele Friday at Kukui Grove Center ahead of today’s distribution of free ‘ukulele for Kaua‘i 2020 high-school graduates.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Waimea Class of 2020 graduate Leslie Uri leaves with her and her friends’ Strings of Joy free ‘ukulele while Tora Smart of Hanalei Strings and her mother Denise Kaufman wait to greet more graduates Friday at the historic Waimea Theatre.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Strings of Joy committee, including Sami Live, Jordy Fleming, Emma Hagan, Kirk Smart, Maluhia Castillo, Eli Smart and Maile Bryan wait for a Menehune graduating senior Friday at the historic Waimea Theatre.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Strings of Joy committee reacts Friday as a Waimea graduate walks through the line for his Kala ‘ukulele package at the historic Waimea Theatre.

Today is the final opportunity for Kaua‘i’s Class of 2020 to get their free Kala ‘ukulele when the Strings of Joy committee hosts the free distribution from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Kukui Grove Center water fountain near Jamba Juice.

“This is it,” said Maile Bryan of the committee.

“This is the last hurrah — unless they want to drive all the way out to Hanalei Strings. The Kukui Grove distribution primarily accommodates high-school seniors graduating from Kaua‘i High School, Island School, the charter schools, Kamehameha Schools, home schools, and anyone else who missed the distribution for Kapa‘a and Waimea.”

Fundraising for the massive project equipping graduating high-school seniors is ongoing, as the committee’s original list of seniors grew to include graduates (from Kaua‘i) from Kamehameha Schools and home schools.

“When we started the project in partnership with Life’s Bridges, we figured for about 700 seniors,” said Smart.

“But then, when the instruments came in boxes, we felt they deserved to be in protective cases. The list of seniors also grew with the addition of Kaua‘i graduates from the Kamehameha Schools and the home schools. We’re now looking at more than 750 seniors.”

The project was funded by more than 170 individual and commercial donors to provide each graduating senior with a free ‘ukulele to help make up for missing out on milestone senior-year events such as proms and graduations.

“This is something my classmates and I truly appreciate,” said Leslie Uri Friday afternoon while picking up her ‘ukulele package at the historic Waimea Theatre. “I know how to play since I learned back in middle school. When they announced this gift, we were totally surprised. It makes us feel very special.”

“This is such a good thing they’re doing,” said Jean Souza of the Kaua‘i Ocean Discovery center, who learned about the project Friday as Smart and Bryan unloaded instruments ahead of today’s distribution. “I remember how having an ‘ukulele after graduating really helped my son.”

Joining the Hanalei Strings and Life’s Bridges partnership, the committee expanded to include the efforts from GradKap, Kaua‘i Leaders Against Suicide, ‘Oli ‘Oli Productions, Kala Brand Music Co. and CG Custom Prints.

The Payton Kekaialoha Bryan-Chung Memorial, ‘Aina Ho‘okupu ‘O Kilauea, Wa‘alani Enterprises, Earthworks Pacific and the Kirk and Tora Smart ‘ohana led over 170 contributors to the massive undertaking.

“At this point, we’ll take anything,” Bryan said. “If there is anything remaining once everything is accounted for, the remainder will be turned over to Life’s Bridges to help them with the work they do in the community.”

Bryan there will be programs people can become involved in by following Instagram @stringsofjoykauai and @hanaleistrings.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.


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