Arson destroys $34,500 in
Kauai Pop Warner gear

LIHUE » The Kapaa Association of Pop Warner Football totaled its losses yesterday from an arson fire Thursday that destroyed a storage building containing all the equipment for three teams.

To Donate

Donations can be sent directly to Kapaa Pop Warner Association, P.O. Box 605, Kapaa, HI 96746, or dropped off at any First Hawaiian Bank in the state.

At the same time, offers of help poured in from around the state.

"We lost all our footballs. We lost 135 helmets. We lost all of the practice jerseys for 2 1/2 teams. We lost everything from all the coaches' whistles to all the cones to mark the sidelines," said Fran Johnson, Kapaa Pop Warner vice president.

"The most pressing need is for game uniforms, which were all custom-made. The season starts on Sept. 11," Johnson said. The annual Pop Warner Jamboree is scheduled for that date at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue.

The equipment was valued at $34,500. None of it was insured. The building at Kapaa Ball Park belonged to Kauai County. Until it is replaced, the teams will be without a location to store the replacement gear.

"The really hard part is asking people who already have donated to Pop Warner this year to donate again," said Johnson, whose father was Kauai district commissioner for Pop Warner.

"There are six Pop Warner associations from Hanalei to Kekaha, and they all are offering whatever they can," she said. "But if the Pop Warner supporters in those communities help Kapaa, that means less for their kids."

The fire was reported to the Kauai Fire Department at 5:17 a.m. Thursday. Although firefighters had the fire out by 5:30, the structure and all its contents were gone.

Pop Warner football players took a break during practice yesterday at Kapaa Ball Park to check out the charred remains of a wood storage shed. A pre-dawn arson fire destroyed the shed and $34,500 worth of football gear Thursday. All of the equipment for 100 youngsters and their coaches was lost, but everyone showed up for practice yesterday with jerseys from past years and whatever footballs they could scrounge. Donations are being sought to replace the equipment, especially uniforms, by opening day on Sept. 11.

The Kapaa Pop Warner Association includes three teams of youngsters ages 8 to 15. There are about 75 players and 25 cheerleaders, Johnson said. Practice began Monday, three days before the fire.

County Councilman Mel Rapozo has long been the island's most vocal advocate of Pop Warner. Johnson said that by midday yesterday, Rapozo had made more than 200 telephone calls seeking donations.

"The only thing these people who set the fire have done is to make Kapaa a stronger community and make Kapaa Pop Warner stronger," said Rapozo, who played Pop Warner football in the 1970s, coached in the 1990s and now is a board member of the Lihue Association.

As Rapozo was being interviewed, he received a $5,000 check from Jim Lull, a Kauai mortgage executive.

"My goal is to see those Kapaa kids, in uniform, at the Jamboree," Rapozo said. "That will happen. I guarantee it."

Rapozo, a former Kauai Police Department sergeant who now works as a private investigator, has posted a $500 reward for anyone providing information about who started the fire. As of late yesterday, he had received no calls.

He noted that in addition to destroying the storage building and its contents, the fire demolished an adjoining lanai where players did their homework before practice.

"I don't understand people who do things like this," he said. "If you're angry at your life, don't go hurt the kids."

A representative of the Pro Bowl on Oahu also contacted the association and promised to ask the National Football League for a donation.



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