Founder Reflects on Journey in Advance of 10 Year Anniversary Paddle For Life Event

October 1, 2018, 10:50 AM HST · Updated October 1, 11:42 AM
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The Pacific Cancer Foundation is preparing for its 10th Annual Paddle for Life two-day event, set to push-off on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018.

Kimokeo Kapahulehua. PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia.

Paddle for Life was originally founded by community service organizer and paddling icon Kimokeo Kapahulehua. Kapahulehua’s family and friends who were cancer survivors had a strong desire to paddle. They would petition him to organize paddle voyages that they could share together.

Kapahulehua said, “I never hesitated, and my answer was of course, ‘we’re all in this together’.” His passion and vision was simply to encourage and help cancer survivors and support them in a voyage they could participate in annually. While the event has grown and evolved over the years, the vision remains steadfast, drawing paddlers from all around the world.

The Paddle for Life event is a combination of cancer survivors and supporters that paddle six-person outrigger canoes 36-miles across the blue open waters of the ‘Auʻau Channel from Lahaina to Lānaʻi and back, this effort supports and raises funds for Pacific Cancer Foundation.

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In preparation, paddlers either organize a team or are assigned to an existing team. From there paddlers move into the fundraising phase. This year each paddler has been asked to raise a minimum, and very achievable, $250 in donations. In addition, this year PCF has raised the challenge and fundraising goal to $200,000. Many paddlers choose to continue fundraising beyond the minimum and grind to reach their personal goal.

Kapahulehua’s grandson Jayden was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2014. Courtesy photo: Pacific Cancer Foundation.

PCF recently sat with Kapahulehua and listened to his personal story about how his grandson Jayden was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2014. Kapahulehua said, “we were in shock and very sad when we received the phone call. We were facing many challenges as a family.”

He went on to explain, “PCF was a pillar of amazing support for the family during this time. Through PCF we were able to receive help from the Patient Navigators, we received travel assistance, and were made aware of services we did not even know existed.” Jayden and family endured the hardship of traveling once a week, for two years to Oʻahu for treatment.

Jayden, now seven-years old, recently completed treatment and will be participating in this year’s Paddle for Life. Kapahulehua and friends are working diligently to raise funds for Team Jayden Victory Voyagers.

There are many stories like Jayden’s, and its stories like this that fuel fundraising efforts and bind paddlers together, reminding them we’re all in this together.

The paddlers reap the rewards of fundraising on event day as they launch from Hanakaʻōʻō Beach in Lahaina. For some paddlers the voyage may be symbolic of surviving cancer, other paddlers efforts are in memory of a loved one, and many want to show their support.

Maui Now canoe. PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia.

As the canoes glide through the water, and with each stroke of the paddle there is a contagious excitement and sense of community. This year 28 canoes and over 300 paddlers will make their way to Mānele Bay on Lānaʻi.

Paddlers will camp overnight and share in a celebratory evening as one ʻohana before paddling back.

PCF provides much needed support services for Maui County, such as Patient navigation, visiting specialist, nutritional support, transportation, wellness classes and support groups for the entire family.

“There is such a great need for what we offer. We want to be able to reach all of our Maui community when they need us,” said Nancy La Joy, Executive Director of Pacific Cancer Foundation. “Funds raised from Paddle for Life benefits families whose lives have been forever changed by cancer, because we’re all in this together.”

Individuals wanting to contribute can do so at the following donation link.

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