25 years of aloha
POSTED: Thursday, February 12, 2009
Entertainer Carole Kai said her mother was the driving force behind the creation of the Great Aloha Run 25 years ago.
25th annual Great Aloha Run
» When: Monday (Presidents Day)
» Starting line: South Nimitz Highway and Bethel Street
» Staggered start times: 6:57 a.m. competitive wheelchairs (silent start); 6:58 a.m. Sounds of Freedom (silent start); 7 a.m. everyone else
» Length: 8.15 miles
» Course record: Male - Rachid Tbahi (of Morocco), 40:02 (1996); female - Darlene Mota (of Hawaii), 45:53 (1995)
Kai said the giving spirit of her mom, Ethel Shimizu, pushed her to realize her dream of helping people in need. Since the first Great Aloha Run in 1985, Carole Kai Charities Inc. has given more than $7.6 million in race proceeds to more than 150 nonprofit organizations.
The silver-anniversary race will be held during Monday's Presidents Day holiday. The 8.15-mile course runs from Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium and averages about 20,000 entrants annually.
Kai said her mother and eight siblings were often left home alone in Kahaluu because both their parents worked. But a neighboring Hawaiian family watched over them and helped them.
"The Hawaiians would say, 'E komo mai' (meaning "welcome to my home") and feed them," said Kai. "It started with the Hawaiians, who were blessed with a wonderful giving spirit that infected my mom, and my mom infected me."
Her mother, who raised three children on her own, was often frustrated at not being able to give more to the needy on what she earned as a barber for some 50 years, Kai added.
"There was a real hunger in her heart (to help others) and a real sadness she couldn't do anything about it. ... She told me, 'You need to put water back in the well, or it will become dry,'" said Kai. "That's why I started the (Carole Kai) Bed Race" in 1974 and an ancillary "Fun Run" around Diamond Head for charity, she added.
Ten years later she replaced these races with the Great Aloha Run, which boasted 11,000 to 12,000 participants the first year and remains one of the state's largest sporting events.
The first race was 7.5 miles, but the course was lengthened to 8.15 miles in 1986. One year there were 28,000 participants, including thousands of Hawaii residents, visitors and the Sounds of Freedom (Hawaii-based military units running in formation). But with so many military members deployed, organizers expect their usual 20,000 this year, said race director Carol Jaxon.
There are divisions for elite runners from throughout the world, different age groups, wheelchair and hand-cycle competitors, and those who walk or push baby strollers.
Kai said her mother died in 1997 at 86, but "she had seen me do the bed race and knew I started the G.A.R., and she knew I did it because of her. It really thrilled me to make her happy."
Major charities that receive funds from the race include the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; the Hawaii Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation; Newspapers in Education programs; the United Cerebral Palsy Association; and the Hawaii High School Athletic Association.
The race also supports programs that promote health and fitness for all ages, Kai said, including the Great Aloha Run Sports, Health and Fitness Expo at the Neal Blaisdell Center today through Sunday.