Murphy and Amemiya deliver for needy schools


POSTED: Friday, October 23, 2009

The idea sounds crazy.

A downtown block party on a Wednesday night?

We're not in college anymore, most of our Thursday morning schedules aren't clear so that we can sleep off midweek revelry.

On the surface, it seemed doomed for failure. A major fundraiser when no one has funds, on a night when people go home and watch TV.

And it was pulled together on short notice.

But when Don Murphy called Keith Amemiya about a month ago, Amemiya knew if anyone could pull it off, it would be the downtown bar and grill owner known for his philanthropy.

“;Because it's backed by Don Murphy, I knew it would get support,”; says Amemiya, the czar of high school sports in Hawaii. “;His name carries a lot of clout because he does so much for the community.”;

So does Amemiya's, for much the same reason.

Don Murphy and Keith Amemiya are formidable on their own. Combine them and their networks of friends and business associates willing to contribute services, products and time to a cause and how can you lose?

The Save Our Sports Hoolaulea on Merchant Street netted more than $100,000. Amemiya said the SOS campaign has now raised around $1.2 million that will be distributed to the state's public schools in December, staving off bankruptcy for high school athletic departments.

A couple of hundred volunteers, including dozens from the athletic departments of Oahu public high schools, staffed the booths. Businesses donated food and drink. Stars like Brother Noland and Cecilio & Kapono performed. It was expertly coordinated by Lynette Adams.

Should be no surprise how smoothly it all went—I've seen Murphy's crew work magic many times, and these ADs and coaches pool their efforts to make sense out of the chaos of championship track meets every year.

As for working late on a week night, the OIA folks are used to it like the bartenders and waitresses ... these are the men and women who are last to leave the gym at basketball and volleyball games. And, as one veteran AD noted with a sense of gallows humor, “;Hey, we've only got one more day this week anyway.”;

Furlough Fridays don't mean a day off for those who run the athletic programs—not with football playoffs in full swing.

SO IS this just a $1.2 million Band-Aid? Maybe. But those of us at this newspaper nine years ago can tell you miracles are possible when people in Hawaii get behind a cause considered worthy.

Murph is always in the middle of it. Not as a showboat, not as a marketing gimmick. But because he cares.

I asked him once if he'd ever considered political office.

He just laughed, dried his fresh-from-dishwashing hands on his apron, and said, “;What, and give up all of this?”;

“;He'd win,”; Amemiya says. “;But he's too smart to run for office.”;

As for the HHSAA chief, he told me last night he's not running for anything in the coming election. There'd been a lot of talk about Amemiya as a lieutenant governor candidate, even some about the top spot. Not this time. “;But I still want to be involved in the political process,”; he says.

FOR ANYONE else, this was a longshot.

But when you look at who conceived and executed this shindig, its success should be no surprise at all.