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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 16, 2008

Five who really care about Hawaii

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

The two women and three men chosen to be this year's Jefferson Award winners have helped Hawai'i and its people in many ways.

They are:

  • Brian Kajiyama, who helped prepare scouting reports for the University of Hawai'i football team.

  • Ozella Mabson, who financed the start of an epilepsy foundation on Maui.

  • Ivalee Sinclair, provided a voice for special education students around the state.

  • Wesley Fong, who directed the focus of the Palolo Chinese Home.

  • Chuck "Doc" Burrows, who helped restore Kawai Nui Marsh.

    The five were selected last week for their long-term dedication to the community. They're the unsung heroes of volunteerism.

    The award, created in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard, is a who's who of outstanding Americans. Past national honorees include first ladies Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter; former secretary of state Colin Powell; entertainer Bob Hope; and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

    This year's five from Hawai'i will be honored at a luncheon April 2 at the Pacific Club.

    A panel of local judges selected the winners from a pool of two dozen nominees.

    "It was a difficult decision," said Dr. Ramon Sy, one of last year's winners and one of this year's judges. "There were quite a lot of them to choose from who have done a significant amount of good."

    Kajiyama, who was born with cerebral palsy, prepared scouting reports and broke down film of opponents as a graduate assistant for the UH football team.

    Mabson founded the Epileptic Foundation of Maui 12 years ago using her deceased husband's retirement fund.

    Sinclair, an advocate for special education in Hawai'i, often attends legislative sessions to persuade others to respond to the needs of special education.

    Fong has volunteered countless hours to support the Palolo Chinese Home.

    Burrows, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner, has led the restoration of Kawai Nui Marsh that began 30 years ago.

    Sy founded and has run the Aloha Medical Mission for the past 25 years. He represented the state last year at the national ceremony in Washington, D.C.

    "I first looked at the amount of the commitment and the compassion," Sy said of his selections process this year. "I also looked at how much they care about the other people in the community and what they've done."

    The award is sponsored by The Honolulu Advertiser and KGMB9.

    Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.