GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Colorful yuletide wreaths made of crepe paper adorned the stand of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children patient Jacquline Steves, 6, last week as she fashioned Christmas crafts with Kawaiahao School volunteer Kuulei Akaka at this year's Christmas party at the hospital.
Afflicted children enjoy holiday party
Kids with cancer get into the holiday spirit at the celebration
Honored guests at the Christmas party were easily identified in the crowd of about 200 by their colorful "Santa's Helper" hats.
Wearing them were children who have been or are being treated for cancer -- many pulling gaily decorated intravenous machines.
They gave the big man in the red suit the warmest possible greeting when he dropped in, clasping him with their little arms. Every one of the 150 children received a gift.
The eighth annual party for the Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation was hosted last week by Danny and Charlotte Graham of Graham Builders and planned by Noreen Kamiya.
The second floor dining room at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children was packed with celebrants enjoying the decorations, dinner and entertainment last week.
Adults and kids were enthralled with Greg Gabaylo's pro bono performance, which showed why he's described as the world's fastest juggler. He went from balls, eggs and hoops to machetes, juggling them with an apple while taking bites from it.
Kawaiahao School volunteers helped children decorate bags for gifts and do various crafts.
Maui firefighter Vince Steves was in a craft room with his 6-year-old daughter, Jacquline, diagnosed with bone cancer in April.
"She was in a lot of pain all the time," he said. "They couldn't figure it out until we came here (to Kapiolani)."
His wife, Annette, was home with their second daughter, Dominque, 9. The two have been going back and forth from Maui, he said.
"It's really crazy," Steves said, adding that they stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Honolulu.
Dr. John Lederer, president of the Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation, said the annual party gives children with cancer an opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a normal way.
It's "a little respite" from one to two years of chemotherapy and radiation, said Lederer, medical director of Queen's Nae'a Radiology Department.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
"It helped my family a lot and helped a lot of families with medical bills."
The 8-year-old had leukemia at age 5 and decided to give back by raising money for the Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation
Kaela Teho, 8, who said she "used to have leukemia" when she was 5, decided to trick-or-treat for money for the foundation instead of candy two years ago.
"It helped my family a lot and helped a lot of families with medical bills," she said.
She collected $417 last year on her own and this year, with help from 'Iolani classmates and others, raised $9,582 for the foundation.
The foundation last year provided more than $200,000 in assistance to Hawaii families with children diagnosed with cancer. It also provides comfort, support and information for the children and families.
Kaela's 4-year-old sister, Lily, and parents, Kendis and Matt, were at the party helping with festivities. "She's already talking about (collecting money) next year," Kendis Teho said.
She said Kaela finished 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy treatments in September. The HCCF helped them with the mortgage on their Kaimuki home and other expenses when they were caring for their daughter and couldn't work, she said. She is a dietitian and her husband is a real estate analyst, she said. Both are self-employed.
Kendis Teho said the foundation's financial assistance program is the only one of its kind in the state. It's supported by grants and donations.
Marius and Nalani Almarza of Ewa Beach said they're trying to get the Department of Education to establish services for kids with cancer because they're not included in the special education system.
"Parents who have children going to school not only have to fight cancer disease but have to fight the DOE system to get services," he said.
He said he and his wife are trying to educate the DOE about the needs for children who might have learning disabilities after treatment for cancer.