RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Aaron Tabua, 2, of Fiji adjusted the hat given to him during lunch yesterday, brought by employees of Wahoo's Fish Taco to patients at Shriners Hospital for Children.
Visitors make holidays happier for Shriners children
Flavia Luamanuvae-Vaai misses her family in Samoa because she must recuperate at Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu, the first time she has had to spend the holidays away from home.
The 20-year-old just had hip and knee surgery a week before Christmas, and on the scale of one to 10, her pain is usually a five or six.
This is her fourth time at Shriners -- but Shriners is not home. Luamanuvae-Vaai misses her four brothers and two sisters.
However, the patients receive many visitors and gifts throughout the holiday season, making it enjoyable until she can return home in six months.
Throughout this month, patients at Shriners have been showered with visitors, who helped create the holiday spirit by singing Christmas carols, playing games and giving gifts.
"Even though we're in the hospital, we know there's people out there who care for us," Luamanuvae-Vaai said.
Yesterday, Wahoo's Fish Taco held a small Mexican fiesta for the children with chicken and fish tacos, rice, salsa and chocolate cake. The children were the first to sample Wahoo's food; the restaurant on Auahi Street will hold its grand opening Jan. 5.
The children had visitors practically every day of December from various organizations and schools, including the University of Hawaii baseball team.
For most of the children, yesterday was also their first time they got to play with a pinata.
Twelve-year-old Apimeleki Ratulevu positioned himself steady on his crutches with an orange-and-black blindfold covering his eyes. After a few wild swings, he knocked the pinata open, spilling small candy and small foam basketballs.
Ratulevu said he especially enjoys the gifts visitors brought. His favorite are toy cars he can take apart and put together again.
"When they don't come, we just play whatever," said Ratulevu, a rugby and soccer player from Fiji. "But it's always better when they do come."