NAWILIWILI — Kaua‘i United Way acting executive director Lori Almarza apologized profusely after realizing that her phone call to Kim Silva roused Silva from her Sunday morning sleep-in.
“She was here, earlier to drop off her son who is one of the camera crew,” said Shelly Gerardo, a Kaua‘i United Way board member who arranged to have her son and friends — alumni of Kevin Matsunaga’s Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School media program — head up the Facebook Live event. “She probably went back home to sleep.”
Almarza’s phone call was to inform Silva that her golf ball she donated for was the closest to the hole and earned the $1,500 cash top prize.
A reactionary remark exploded from the mobile phone, and Almarza held up the phone so Facebook cameras could get views of the still-prone winner.
“I am awake, now,” Silva said.
Silva was just one of the nearly 2,000 entrants to the first-ever Kaua‘i United Way Golf Ball Drop that took place in lieu of the traditional golf tournament because of the global pandemic.
“We worked closely with Kellie Hines and her team at Hokuala Ocean Course owned by Timbers Kaua‘i to insure the safety of all involved in this event,” Almarza said. “We almost sold out the 2,000-ball limit — just a few short. We are thrilled with the support from our community of our 25 Participating Agencies. The event was covered live on KUW’s Facebook page. No double this will become a ‘new’ annual event, and something we’ll look forward to every year.”
The unmistakeable whir of the Jack Harter Helicopters specially-equipped craft perked the ears of the collection of Kaua‘i United Way staff, board members, Hokuala team members, and Jack Harter Helicopters as activity on the Hokuala driving range paused while the whirly bird poised to unload its cargo, the Facebook cameras capturing the scene.
Following the shower of white orbs, Almarza and board member Ellen Ching, a veteran of previous golf ball drops with the Easter Seals of Kaua‘i, gingerly picked their way to the center of the white-speckled field, craning necks to see if any balls had dropped into the hole marked by a target circles and surrounded by banners of the event’s major sponsors.
Armed with a tape measure, clipboards, and the smart phone matching numbers to donors, Silva was deemed the closest to the hole (no, not a single ball found home in the hole).
The ball picked up by Janice Bond earned the runner-up prize of a staycation donated by the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, and Kipu Ranch Adventures. Kailee Mu was connected to the next closest ball, earning a $500 gift card donated by Gather Federal Credit Union.
Additionally, the following 10 balls falling closest to the hole earned their ticketholders awards provided by community sponsors valued at more than $5,000.
“During a time when we are so challenged to raise money —more than $35,000 raised — in support of the work being done by member agencies, Kaua‘i really ‘showed up’ to support this event,” said Beth Tokioka, the KUW board president. “The need for the social services provided by the KUW partner agencies has never been greater, and we are committed to supporting our partners and the thousands of people on Kaua‘i who are in need of these services.”
The event sponsors, including Timbers Kaua‘i and the Ocean Course at Hokuala, Jack Harter Helicopters, are Spectrum, Stan’s Contracting, Inc., Electricians Inc., IBEW Local 1186, Thomas Drywall, Inc. Earthworks Pacific, Corteva Agriscience, Kukui‘ula, Kurt Bosshard, Attorney at Laq, Papa‘a Bay Ranch, Thomas Contrades Memorial Fund, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, and TeleCable Systems, Inc.
Prize donors include Enterprise Holdings LLC, the Grove Farm Company, Keoki’s Paradise, Michael Contrades, Po‘ipu Bay Golf Course, Safeway, Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort, and Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.