They need your kokua
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
It may seem like a small thing.
But to the residents of Hale Pulama Mau at the Kuakini Medical Center, it's the world.
Any time there's a special event or program from hula performances to balloon volleyball these nursing-home residents get excited. They love and need that connection to the world outside the hospital walls.
"They look forward to it," said Jayne Desamito, therapeutic recreation coordinator at Hale Pulama Mau. "You can see it. Their eyes just light up."
Their need for this interaction prompted the Golden Key International Society at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa to action.
Society members are planning a mini-carnival for the more than 200 Hale Pulama Mau residents on Oct. 22, nationally known as Make a Difference Day. Volunteers are organizing carnival-style games such as ring toss and table bowling to stimulate them mentally and physically.
That day, they will join the millions of others nationwide who are doing something positive for their communities, from beach cleanups to fundraising for breast cancer research.
"We decided to focus on giving back to the elderly," said Shannon Miyazaki, 25, a member of Golden Key and part-time recreation assistant at Hale Pulama Mau. "It's nice for them to get that interaction with younger people ... And it's a fun event. They always have a good time."
Make a Difference Day, sponsored by USA Weekend magazine in partnership with the Points of Light Foundation, is a national day of helping others. Last year, more than 3 million people participated in community service projects such as collecting books, feeding the homeless and building homes. More than 26 million Americans are aided by these efforts each year.
In its 15th year, Make a Difference Day gets people to care about the communities they live in, to help their neighbors and to ultimately make this world a better place.
Nursing care homes, such as Hale Pulama Mau, need volunteer groups to come in and provide interactive activities for their residents, many of whom don't get daily visitors.
The activities Golden Key is planning are ideal for these residents, Desamito said. They're not too difficult to do, but they require mental focus and physical ability. Even small movements hitting a balloon or tossing a ball are helpful for residents. They can stay stronger longer. And the movements mimic everyday actions such as brushing hair or putting on a jacket.
"It's dual-purpose," she said. "They're having fun and they're doing something for their health."
Last year, parents at the Star of the Sea Early Learning Center collected gently used shoes to donate to needy children in Iraq.
Without much advertising, they managed to get enough shoes to fill two 27-inch TV boxes.
This year, they hope to do better.
Instead of shoes, they hope to raise funds for the school by collecting recyclable cans and bottles. The goal: 100,000 items, or $5,000 in refunds.
The money would be used toward, among other things, scholarships for families who can't afford the tuition at the Early Learning Center.
"The purpose is to raise money for the school, but at the same time do something we can feel good about and keep the environment clean," said Yamane, 40, of Kaimuki, whose two sons attend the school. "It teaches the children the importance of recycling ... and how to make a difference."
That's really the point to make a difference in your community by pulling together to support a common cause.
Hawai'i residents are doing that in more than one way this year.
In their 10th year of participating in Make a Difference Day, Jacki Sorensen's Aerobic Dancing ladies are collecting cans of Spam for the Hawai'i Foodbank.
The Hilo Bay Watershed Advisory Group is organizing a cleanup along the 4-mile beach from James Kealoha Park to Carlsmith Park.
Read Aloud America and three O'ahu Rotary Clubs Pearl Ridge, Pearl Harbor and Honolulu will install bookshelves in the 27 classrooms at Lehua Elementary School to encourage reading.
The Windward Ahupua'a Alliance is planning two events on Oct. 22. The first is the Clean Kapa'a Quarry Road in Two Hours Blitz Contest. The second is to continue turning a former dump site along the road into a park for workers and volunteers who use the area.
Even The Advertiser is getting in on the act, with a crew working to help out Manoa Valley Theatre that morning.
There's really something for everyone, for every community.
For Miyazaki, helping the elderly is her way of giving back to a community she feels is often overlooked and ignored.
"It's a community that deserves attention," said Miyazaki, who plans to study geriatric medicine. "The elderly are really important. ... There's something special there. I want to help them improve their quality of life."
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.