CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A memorial for Andrew Sato was erected in the rotunda at the state Capitol yesterday. A ceremony was held there yesterday to honor Andrew who died of leukemia on March 1.
ANDREW SATO / 1990-2008
Foster child’s memorial rallies support
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Friends of a 17-year-old foster child who died of leukemia following a special high school graduation ceremony gathered at the state Capitol rotunda yesterday in support of Andrew Sato and all foster children in Hawaii.
Andrew was given his diploma from Aiea High School on Feb. 5, a few months early because of his terminal battle with leukemia. He died March 1.
Andrew was able to graduate despite overwhelming odds. As an infant, he lost his father to cancer and his mother, struggling with drugs, abandoned him in a park when he was 8 years old. A year later, he found out he had cancer and was bounced through several foster homes while struggling to beat the disease.
When he was 14, his cancer returned.
At age 15, he found a family when Edrelina Gamata took him in.
By 2007, Andrew had fought off cancer twice, but when it returned again, doctors told him he would not recover.
Aiea High School counselor Ben Shimabuku become friends with Andrew after meeting him about 2 1/2 years ago and recalled Andrew's selflessness and concern for others.
"He never complained," Shimabuku said. "He's changed my life. I think about him all the time."
Andrew's story of hope despite the odds touched the community, and Gov. Linda Lingle proclaimed Feb. 5 -- Andrew's graduation -- Andrew Sato Day.
At the Capitol yesterday, a photo of Andrew was adorned with lei. Photos showed him at his graduation, standing before a painting of Sam Choy, or working as a chef -- his dream job. After graduation, the Gros Bonnet Culinary Academy agreed to accept Andrew for training as a professional chef.
After Andrew died, his foster mother received an outpouring of support from the community, she said.
"I'd like to tell the community deeply from my heart, 'Thank you for all the support for Andrew and his family.' May god bless them all," she said yesterday.
She added that Andrew would have wanted others to not be afraid to adopt children. He gave her strength and taught her to cherish what she had.
"When it's gone, it's gone, and you will never get it back again," she said.
David Louis, of Heart Gallery Hawaii, a group that helps foster kids said there are 2,100 foster kids in Hawaii with only 1,200 foster homes.
"We need more adoptive homes," Louis said. He recalled Andrew telling him that even older foster children want homes. "No matter what, they never stop wanting a family," he said.
Linda Santos, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Foster Family Programs of Hawaii, said there are at least 200 kids in Hawaii who are 17 years old and still need a family.
"He had a parent to hug him," she said. "There's a whole bunch of others out there that have compelling stories too. They're all of our children and the community needs to pull together and help them."
A celebration of life for Andrew Sato, 17, will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Nuuanu Memorial Park. Friends may call after 2 p.m. Burial will be at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Mililani Memorial Park. Sato died in Kapiolani Medical Center at Pali Momi on Feb. 5. He was born in Honolulu.