December 22, 2014
By CHRIS SUGIDONO
"There were all these homeless children living in the bushes or down at the harbor," he said. "They would go to the shelters but they don't have available room for them. It didn't seem right to have these kids sleeping in the bushes, and they got nobody to buy them a toy or even feed them properly."
Every year the party has grown in size, thanks to the help of associate pastors, Ka'ahumanu said. This year, the pastor has reprised his role as leader after being away from Church on the Go for a couple of years.
More than 300 gifts were donated by the Lahaina Rotary Club, motorcycle groups, classic car groups and residents, as well as retail stores such as Walgreens. Gifts included bicycles, stuffed animals, action figures and Razor scooters.
Tru Grindz, a food truck, provided free meals of shoyu chicken, hot dogs, and chili and rice to the crowd.
"It's always good to give to people who are less fortunate," said Tru Grindz owner Truman Akima, who is Ka'ahumanu's nephew. "I personally think giving meals to the homeless should be every day, not just for Thanksgiving and Christmas."
Malia Ka'ahumanu, the pastor's adopted daughter, has helped her father plan the party nearly every year. Given up as a child, she is a recovering drug addict and knows the struggle some of the families in attendance at the community center on Sunday go through every day.
"It was hard growing up, and I had to adapt to a whole new family," she said. "Living by God's love took us into a good path, and I now have a good heart to do good for others.
"I try to surround myself with positivity, but I'll never forget where I was raised from."
Lehua Dela Cruz of Wailuku grew up with Malia Ka'ahumanu and regularly helps with the party as well. The hanai sister lived in a shelter home for much of her childhood but lives independently now and shares her experience with children.
"We've been to every single one of these, serving, helping and teaching," Dela Cruz said of the party. "We tell them, 'Yes, you are going through a difficult time, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.'"
About 15 to 20 families living in a homeless shelter in Lahaina were transported by bus to the event Sunday in Wailuku.
Sean Means and his wife brought their two daughters and 1-year-old son. The family has lived in a shelter for a few months and had just enough money to buy plane tickets for the children's grandparents to visit from the Mainland, but no money for presents.
Receiving a tractor, stuffed animal and other items, the children had their Christmas gifts.
"It's a godsend," Means said.
Joseph Pluta, president of Church on the Go in the Ka'anpali Beach Hotel, who helps fund the event, said "it's getting bigger and better every year" and added that the joy and excitement he sees on children's faces makes all the work hosting the party worth it.
"You can't buy that," he said.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.