Saturday, February 3, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, February 3, 2001

Donations let visitor take dead son home

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Through the generosity of Hawaii residents, Leonora Cruz will be able to bury her son in their hometown in Ecuador.

Cruz rushed to Hawaii last week after her son, Oscar, was involved in a surfing accident Jan. 25 at Sunset Beach. The 24-year-old Cruz was kept alive on a life-support system, but his heart finally gave out Wednesday and he was pronounced dead.

Leonora Cruz is a single mother with two other children in Ecuador. Her family scraped together money to send her here, but she had no money to take her son home.

Alberto Maldonado, a surfer and native of Ecuador, sought the help of the public and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii to raise money for Leonora Cruz. Yesterday, the nonprofit agency announced that the public came through with enough donations to send Oscar Cruz home.

"The response has been, well, you know Hawaii," said society president Rika Ikeda. "Everybody’s sending in donations and wanting to help."

The Eddie Aikau Foundation provided the final large contribution that will make it possible for Oscar Cruz to go home. The $1,000 donation was the first from the newly formed foundation named in memory of surfer Eddie Aikau.

"We felt that we had to step forward and help out this family in distress," said Eddie’s brother, Clyde. "The Aikau family has been through that type of experience and it’s very sad, very touching, very humbling."

Clyde Aikau said the foundation was formed to help people who are in need and to perpetuate the Hawaiian traditions of surfing and safety in the water.

"It was just so sad that it happened and it’s even worse for the mom to fly halfway around the world, come to Hawaii to take her son back and not having the financial help to take her son back," he said.

Ikeda said other large donations were made by St. Ann’s and St. Anthony’s churches, which gave $1,000 each, and Williams Funeral Services, which gave a discount on its services. As of yesterday, she said, more than $4,000 had been raised to help the family.

Leonora Cruz was scheduled to return to Ecuador last night. Her son’s body will likely be flown home next week.

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