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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 22, 2006

Family full of love could use a helping hand

Help our neighbors in need

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sesilia Atiga, mother of seven daughters, plays catch outside her Palolo home. Atiga bonds with her daughters through softball.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The Atiga family, front, from left: 2-year-old NancyLee, 4-year-old Keanu Mori (cousin); middle, from left: mother, Sesilia, 10-year-old Shandal, 9-year-old Hailey, 16-year-old Antonina, 12-year-old Joanna; back, from left: 14-year-old Lusila, 2-year-old Luamasina and father Luapo "Junior" Atiga.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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When Sesilia Atiga and her seven daughters play softball, they all get along. They laugh loud and long, teasing and cheering one another while darting for the ball.

For the mother and her daughters, softball is therapy: It's uplifting, soothing and inspiring. It's something Atiga, short on cash and time, can give her children from her own childhood and from her heart and something the kids can carry with them always.

Most importantly, it brings the big family together.

The only man in the equation, Luapo Atiga, leaves the softball to his wife and daughters. He's more of a football guy. But he shows up to watch his girls play in their respective leagues as often as he can, always grinning from the sidelines.

"I'm blessed to have all these girls," said Atiga, a guard at O'ahu Community Correctional Center, as he stood outside his Palolo Valley Homes apartment on a recent windy afternoon. Sesilia Atiga and her daughters, ages 2 to 16, were in a grassy expanse a few yards away, throwing a softball around for fun and hitting it lightly with a metal bat.

They erupted into giggles every so often as they played, jocularly teasing anyone who missed a catch or a ball. "It's fun," said 16-year-old Antonina, during a quieter moment in the house while the family was together, Christmas music playing in the background. "It keeps me out of trouble."


Sesilia Atiga works the graveyard shift as an on-call security guard at the public housing complex, and often worries about whether she is giving her daughters enough attention. She starts work just as their cozy home is winding down for the night: The girls are finishing homework or getting ready for bed; her husband is watching TV.

When she finishes her shift, the house is just waking up. Atiga gets her children off to school and her husband to work before she settles down for a little rest. Her sleep is never very deep, though, because she has 2-year-old Luamasina to watch.

Though Atiga is always busy and always tired, she finds time for softball. When the kids get home from school, she often plays a little catch with them. She also coaches some community youth leagues and gives her girls pointers on their game.

Atiga grew up in American Samoa, where she played cricket. When she arrived in the Islands in the 1980s, she couldn't find an active cricket community. So, she took up softball.

And as soon as her girls started walking, she gave them mitts, softballs and bats. It was the easiest way, she thought, to bond with her children. And it has worked.

Atiga says softball and strong parenting skills, with her as the disciplinarian and dad as the big, relenting teddy bear have also shaped her girls into conscientious, caring citizens. The girls volunteer, along with both parents, at community and church gatherings. They do well in school. And they have big dreams for their futures.


Antonina wants to become a nurse or a veterinarian's aide, and 14-year-old Lusila is interested in joining the police force. Joanna, a bright 12-year-old who sprinkles her fast-paced conversations with high-pitched giggles, vows to become a lawyer, an astronaut and a rock star, her father says, shaking his head as he smiles.

"They all keep us on our feet," Sesilia Atiga said.

Though the couple is frugal, their incomes barely cover rent, all the bills, food and household expenses. Luapo Atiga earns about $40,000 a year as a corrections officer, and his wife makes next to minimum wage. The girls are constantly growing out of clothes, which is hard on the family's budget. They are also all good eaters, Atiga jokes.

A 100-pound bag of rice lasts two weeks in the household. In addition to feeding their children, the couple often see neighborhood girls and boys at their dinner table.

The Atigas say their door is always open to a child who could use a meal.

"I just appreciate the roof over our heads," Sesilia Atiga said. "I'm thankful."

Atiga and her family are also thankful for one another.

"My wife, she's the backbone of the family," Luapo Atiga said while watching from a small concrete lanai as his girls threw a ball around outside their home. His eyes filled with tears as he added, "She's the one who has kept this family together."

For Christmas, the girls are asking for donations of clothes. They would appreciate a gift certificate so they could pick out their own clothes. Also, the youngest daughters ages 2 and 4 are asking for children's books and educational toys.


One generous Hawai'i resident, dubbed the fund's "Secret Santa," is pledging to match the first $25 of each donation. It's a pledge he's made every year for more than a decade. Last year alone, he donated $36,000.

Mid-Pacific Country Club Thursday Club $2,475

Clinton and Suzanne Churchill $250

Employees of the Hale'iwa Post Office $210

Aina Haina Employee Fund $200

Dorothy and Paul Dale $200

Christine Young $200

Philip Haisley Jr. and Victoria Kneubuhl $150

Cheong and Yuriko Lum $150

Sherry Adams, in memory of Pete and Peggy Ewart $100

Hank and Carol Akimoto, in memory of "Koshack" and Ruth Akimoto $100

Noeau and Hiialo Copp $100

Thomas Foster and Karen Ide $100

Raina Haarz $100

Robert and Norene Hazzard $100

Xuan and Thanh Huynh $100

Edith and Glenn Iwane $100

Trent and Lynne Johnson $100

Bradley Y. Kam $100

Kristy, Katy, Preston and Lauren $100

Patricia Lancaster, Swim School Inc. $100

Mich, Nick, Brit, Court, Rach, Sari, Coll and Marc $100

Gilbert and Gail Morita $100

Julie and Ted Overdorf $100

Randal and Joyce Suzuki $100

Daniel and Ethel Takamatsu $100

Debra and Joey Tumale, in memory of Jose Tumale Sr. $100

Doug and AnnMarie Walker for Koloa UCC $100

Sam Yee and Camille Chun-Hoon $100

Tsungli and Patrick Yu $100

Michael McInerny $75

Charles and Mei Tsu Birkeland $50

Shogo and Catherine Hamada, in memory of Grandma and Grandpa S. $50

William and Mary Hamilton $50

Francis Kaneshiro and Ethel Fujikawa-Kaneshiro $50

Paul and Peter McCabe $50

Morris Nishimura, in memory of Akira Nishimura $50

Samira Norman, in memory of my sons, Norman and Fred $50

Sarah and Matthew $50

Ava-Marie Matchen $40

Elsbeth Madinger $35

Philbert and Roberta Alencastre $25

David Cantor $25

Roy and Jean Ganiko $25

John O. Gibson $25

Gerhard C. Hamm $25

Jensen Kino $25

Fred Metcalf $25

Tina Morita, in memory of Masako Nii $25

Ann Mitch and Lawrence Oribio $25

Marilyn Smith, in memory of Lavinia $25

Donna and Paul Strauss, in honor of Bruce and Alice Taggart $25

Dora and Kwang-Mei Wang $25

Barbara Perry $10

Anonymous $2,000

Anonymous $1,000

Anonymous $150

Anonymous $100

Anonymous $100

Anonymous $100

Anonymous $50

Anonymous $30

Anonymous $25

Anonymous $25

Anonymous $25

Total: $ 10,400

Previous total: $ 104,223.82

Total to date: $ 114,623.82

Reach Mary Vorsino at mvorsino@honoluluadvertiser.com.