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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Season of giving has come early

    by Ferd Lewis

     • Prep sports score $430,000 backing
    Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

    Keith Amemiya

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    Moloka'i High athletic director Camie Kimball had resigned herself to using the weekend to figure out how she was going to tell the school's athletes there would be no spring sports and very little of everything else.

    With steep state cuts of nearly 50 percent to an already bare-bones athletic budget, there was nothing else left to do.

    But how could she explain to a school that had won two state baseball championships and a Division II girls basketball title and a proud, down on its luck, community there might be no season?

    Thanks to the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association and some generous, community-minded donors, it is a speech that Kimball hasn't had to make this week.

    Instead, with $430,000 of a targeted $1.2 million already raised, the hope is that no sports and no teams will be cut from any public high school athletic program for the 2009-10 school year.

    "When Keith (Amemiya, HHSAA executive director) told me about the fundraising, I wanted to jump up and hug him," Kimball said. "We couldn't do this without his and other people's efforts."

    For as grim as the deepening fiscal crunch has been for schools on O'ahu, the impact upon Moloka'i and Lana'i has been especially "dire" say officials there. With unemployment on Moloka'i running at nearly 13 percent, they have run out of places to pass the fundraising hat. "All the businesses on Moloka'i have supported us in their own ways," Kimball said. "They've helped as much as they possibly can."

    The combination of rising unemployment, small populations and the necessity of having to travel to road games by boat or plane has made for a wicked one-two-three punch for Moloka'i and Lana'i.

    So officials of those schools were particularly gratified when not only was the plan unveiled, but Amemiya and his wife, Bonny, said they would add $30,000 of their own to the effort, $20,000 of which is to be divided between Moloka'i and Lana'i.

    "As of (Tuesday), without this, we were looking at not having any spring sports," said David McHugh, Lana'i athletic director. "That's the way the budget came to be. Of course, with this, we're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

    With the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation, First Hawaiian Bank, Bank of Hawaii, the GIFT Foundation, Hawaiian Airlines and HMSA showing the way, your help could make it a bright sports season for our public schools after all.

    (Checks payable to "HHSAA SOS Fund" may be sent to HHSAA P.O. Box 62029, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96839)