Community love, generosity grows at annual Thanksgiving benefit in Waimanalo

waimanalo-thansgiving-benefit

An annual event of Thanksgiving has gone above and beyond this year.

It started with one man’s vision, which then inspired a network of people to help low-income and homeless families in Waimanalo.

You may know him as former world and national champion body boarder Kaui Kauhi. But people in his hometown know him as the organizer of the Annual Kaui Kauhi and Friends Thanksgiving Benefit that was held Sunday at Waimanalo Beach Park.

“This event is basically getting the community together and give thanks to all the kids,” he said.

There was no shortage of entertainment, food, and gifts for children.

Kauhi says “this is the biggest turnout that we have ever had, from donating of foods, donating of prizes, and the amount of people that we have here.

“Every year, the number of people attending this event increases, but so do the donations, so this year, for the first time, every child received a gift.”

More than a thousand bicycles, scooters, and boogie boards were passed out. “The last four years, we had some kids that went home and they were crying, and I felt very bad, so this year, we are very fortunate.”

After living in the beach park the year before, a mother of two says she’s grateful for the brand new bicycles for her children. “I was going to get them bikes for Christmas, but they got it here, which is awesome. It’s such a blessing, especially for all the kids here.”

Kauhi’s Thanksgiving benefit not only helps children — a man who used to live on the beach, and received a warm meal at a previous benefit in the past, now pays it forward.

“I don’t have much,” he says. “All I have is my time, so I can give my time to help and help these kids.”

Kauhi says he understands the hardship some people in Waimanalo go through. “Me and my cousins and my grandmother, who raised 20-23 of us in a three-bedroom, one-bath house, we all struggled. … I’m in a better place now. I wanted to give back to the kids and I wanted our community to come together as one.”

Kauhi hopes others will be inspired to do the same. “I just wish other towns, other communities, someone can step up and do an event like mine in their community. That’s what I would want.”

Organizers of Sunday’s event says the gifts that were not handed out will instead be donated to KHON’s Laulima giving program.

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