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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Big Isle trek aids special-needs kids


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Angelina Lovato walks along Highway 11 near Pāhala, to raise funds for 58 special-needs students in the Kona area.

KARIN STANTON | Associated Press

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KAILUA, KONA, Hawai'i Angelina Lovato tries to keep the faces of her students in focus, even as the road ahead of her blurs from the heat.

Lovato, a 58-year-old reading tutor, is walking 240 miles around the Big Island for the second time to raise funds for special needs students in the Kona area.

"What keeps me going is those kids," she said after completing a 20-mile trek Sunday near Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. "There are sacrifices they make, that their parents make every day. This is the least I could do."

Lovato's journey takes her from the coffee fields of Kona, south through hot and desolate lava fields and around to Hilo before winding through the misty forests of Hāmākua and down to the Kohala Coast.

She hopes to finish the trek back where she started June 7.

The walk is broken into 20-mile segments to allow Lovato's feet to rest overnight. "I'm having a little trouble with blisters on my left foot, but that's to be expected," she said. "I'm a walker anyway and I'm in better shape than I was last year."

Last year's inaugural fundraising walk was a huge learning experience for Lovato.

She learned the value of the right shoes and how difficult it is to sleep in a van. This year, she has several pairs of walking sneakers, host families lined up around the island, and a husband who now has experience in lancing and bandaging walnut-sized blisters.

Lovato's husband, Randy, is a county zoning inspector and is using his vacation time to help his wife complete her mission.

"It's my job to take care of her," he said. "After 30 years of marriage, we make a pretty good team."

Last year, Lovato raised $9,300. It was enough to ensure 15 students with such disabilities as cerebral palsy would have access to therapeutic activities including horseback riding, art classes and music lessons.

This year's goal is $15,000, and Lovato already is more than one-third there.

"We've had people come running up to the van and literally empty their pockets of change," Randy Lovato said.

Lovato said all the money raised directly benefits the children through her nonprofit group Special Needs Kids of Hawai'i.

"It's been amazing. I keep thinking this weekend of all the people who have made sacrifices," she said. "All I'm doing is putting one foot in front of the other."