CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Pikai Winchester, left, shared the spotlight with his younger brother, Paliku, today during ceremonies at Holy Family Catholic Academy honoring Pikai, who was a member of the Waipio team that won the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday.
School honors Winchester boys
Waipio Little Leaguer Pikai starred and ill Paliku brought luck
Pikai Winchester and his little brother Paliku received a hero's welcome today at Holy Family Catholic Academy at Honolulu Airport.
Pikai, a member of the world champion Waipio Little League team, was praised for his dedication, which just so happened to be the school's character trait of the month.
And Paliku, diagnosed with lymphoma in February, was hailed for being the team's good luck charm.
In the sixth inning of the U.S. finals against Louisiana Saturday, the Hawaii team was down by four runs entering the sixth and final inning. The fans and the team began to chant Paliku's name before kicking off an improbable six-run rally that propelled the team into the world championship game against Mexico on Sunday. Waipio won that game 12-3.
The chanting, not as much the winning, is mother Rena Winchester's proudest moment of the entire experience.
"I felt Paliku's spirit," she said during a rally at the school this morning.
"I broke down and cried. It was the biggest aloha from the Waipio family. I didn't expect it at all."
Before classes began this morning, the entire school gathered in the courtyard to cheer Pikai's return.
"They came to show us that hard work brings out the best, and that miracles do truly happen," third-grade teacher Debbie Gebo said to the school. The theme song to "Rocky" played as Pikai walked in.
Children from each grade gave leis to Pikai and Paliku, who was thanked for being "our good luck charm."
Throughout the ceremony, Pikai had his arm around Paliku, much of his face covered with a baseball cap.
"Now I can think about him, focus on him," said Pikai after removing half of the leis that covered his face.
Family members said they were proud that Pikai has been the ideal big brother for Paliku and another 2-year-old brother, Waipehe.
"He knows that Paliku may never get his chance to be in the Little League, let alone play baseball," Rena Winchester said. "So he dedicated the games to Paliku."
But normality has resumed for the family. Pikai began the sixth grade today, while Paliku started kindergarten.
Later in the morning, Rena Winchester was to pick Paliku up for another chemotherapy treatment. It's been a challenging year for the family, and treatments for the 5-year-old boy are expected to continue for two more years.
"All good things come to an end," she said.
"Back to school, my husband's not here because first day back to work," she added. "And my main focus is to take care of Paliku."