Social Encore: Fundraisers for a cause
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Hawaii has a unique way of learning the value of ohana, or family. Like the famous quote in Disney’s “Lilo and Stich” goes, “Ohana means family, that means no one is left behind.”
Gail Gabriel Fundraiser
» When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 1
Here in the islands, there is a sense of community. Everyone tries their best to make it their responsibility to help others in need. This weekend, three young ladies host two different events and ask the public for their support.
The monthly First Friday art walk is known for turning Hawaii’s busy Chinatown into an artistic nightlife hotspot. Premiere boutique Milk and Honey will open their doors on Friday, June 1, for a benefit fundraiser to help local girl Gail Gabriel as she battles stage four of adenocarcinoma — lung cancer.
Gabriel grew up in Kalihi and decided to continue her education after graduating from Farrington High School in 1999 by entering the nursing program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Looking for a career, Gabriel left Hawaii for Las Vegas and later moved to San Francisco where she worked as a registered nurse at San Jose’s White Blossom Care Center.
Gabriel said the problems started last November, when she started to develop a stubborn cough. The cough persisted for months, so she decided to see a physician in February.
“They ran some tests … and the doctors found seven lesions and tumors,” said Gabriel. The lesions and tumors had spread from her lungs to her brain, and in March doctors diagnosed Gabriel with lung cancer. What made it puzzling for her family, friends and Gabriel was that she did not smoke.
Doctors suggested she start several types of treatment. Gabriel had just completed 10 radiation treatments to her head, causing her to lose her hair and making her cheeks swell. She is now undergoing chemotherapy every three weeks, which causes numbness and tingling in her hands and feet.
Friends Christine George and Tina Viernes wanted to spread Gabriel’s story and help with her medical costs. They decided what better place to throw a fundraiser than Chinatown, one of Gabriel’s favorite party scenes.
George said she met Gail in high school and the two would frequently hang out at a mutual teachers classroom. They grew closer after high school.
“Gail has always been friendly and would invite me everywhere. She always introduced me to so many people.” said George. “She always makes sure that you are okay and that you are taken care of.”
George admitted that distance and time has helped the two grow up, it hasn’t hindered their friendship.
“Gail was there for me for every significant part of my life,” she said. “Even though she was on the mainland, she called me when I gave birth to my son, she called me when we opened up the Milk and Honey shop.”
Tina Viernes, also known as DJ Anit, said Gabriel and her friends would often support her during DJ gigs but their friendship went beyond the party scene.
“She is a friend I could hang out with and have a great time with,” said Viernes. “We are helping out because she’s an amazing person with a great heart. I care for her and want what’s best for her.”
Gabriel said the overflow of love and support from family, friends and strangers has helped her persevere.
“I always cry, and I cry because I’m sad that I’m not there but mostly because I’m just in awe to see that they are trying so hard to make my situation aware for everyone,” she said. “Seeing the response … I tend to get a little emotional.”
The First Friday party will feature art, culture, food, music and fashion. Sean D and DJ Anit will be there to provide music while Lind’s and Sushiman will provide succulent food specials. Milk and Honey will offer the latest fashion trends, with a portion of the sales to help Gabriel. A silent auction (that will include six in4mation hats that will not be released in Hawaii) and prize giveaways from companies like Bubbies Ice Cream, Zippys, BLT Steak House, and Lion Coffee are also planned.
WHEN I WAS a kid, I was a tomboy. As hard as it is to believe, I played tennis, track and karate. When I entered high school, I wanted a sport that was competitive and was introduced to wrestling.
Stephany Lee and Clarissa Chun Fundraiser
» When: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2
I have to admit that I was intimated at first, and when my parents found out I wanted to wrestle, they were very hesitant to give me their permission. But they did, and during my years at Moanalua High School I was able to wrestle and train with Stephany Lee and Clarissa Chun. I often admired both Lee and Chun’s stamina, technique and desire to be a champion.
There are only four weight classes in women’s Olympic Wrestling, and Lee and Chun are two of the four women who will represent Team USA at this year’s Olympic Games in London. This Saturday, June 2, a benefit fundraiser for the two Hawaii wrestlers will take place at Pearl Ultralounge.
Moanalua High School Athletic Director Joel Kawachi was one of the pioneer coaches in Hawaii for girls wrestling. He admitted it was a learning experience, but in the end he wanted to bring a group of girls together to start something no one has done before in Hawaii.
“In girls wrestling at Moanalua, everyone came from such diverse backgrounds,” he said. “It was so new that we got people from all over; from Judo, the national honor society, student government. Our main goal was to teach people how to work together.”
Around 1998, girls started to hit the mat from Moanalua, Mckinley, and Kahuku high schools.
“Back then, there were a lot of stereotypes because there wasn’t any female wrestling back then,” said Kawachi. “Everybody had there own conception of what it was and what it should look like.”
Lee was a three-time wrestling state champion, and in 2002 became a USGWA High School National Champion. Kawachi was head coach of Moanalua’s High School wrestling team for five years and mentored Lee throughout her high school wrestling career.
“It goes beyond my own personal feelings,” said Kawachi. “Our school and community are proud. Not only the Moanalua community but the wrestling community is proud. … Hawaii is such a small state and for anyone to achieve the Olympics is huge.”
Under Kawachi’s belt, he lead Moanalua High school to three team state championships, the first school to set such an accomplishment.
“The girls that wrestled at Moanalua didn’t necessarily hang out together but they got along together. … They worked hard together for a common goal,” he said. “For us everyone came together and because of that, together we won state titles.”
Seeing where Lee has been and where she is now, Kawachi said that high school is only a small part of a person’s life and as a coach, he wanted to make it memorable and teach his wrestlers life lessons that they can use.
“It takes a lot of dedication to get to where Stephany is and I hope that what we did for her in high school gave her the right discipline, to set the right goals,” he said.
For Olympic wrestler Clarissa Chun, competitiveness runs through her blood. Chun competed in swimming and judo but wanted to try something new. In 1998, Chun joined Roosevelt High School’s wrestling team where she wrestled at the 103-pound weight class.
“I wrestled with the boys varsity team and was able to wrestle off with other boys to start,” said Chun, who wasn’t uncomfortable wrestling with boys since she often experienced that when she competed in judo.
Chun was introduced to freestyle wrestling at Missouri Valley College, after her brother encouraged her to go there for a wrestling scholarship. In 2002, a program to qualify for the Olympics opened in Colorado Springs, Colo. Chun decided to move to Colorado to finish her degree and to give the wrestling program a try.
In 2004, Chun made the Olympic national team and said her determination to excel kept her hungry for more — but it hasn’t always been easy. Chun has overcome several injuries, including a torn ACL and two shoulder injuries, which required her to heal over several months at a time.
“It’s not easy overcoming physical injuries, but you really need to be mental for the fight in wrestling,” said Chun. “For wrestling you can have all this technique but it’s not the person (who) knows the technique that will win.”
Standing at 4’ 11”, Chun said being from Hawaii and helping to pave the way for other girls in a male dominating sport gives her hope to get women’s wrestling on the map.
“It’s awesome to see little girls wanting to wrestle,” she said. “Anytime you can pave a way for a female to compete or do a sport they desire … I want girls to gain the respect from everyone and to look at it for the sport and not gender-specific.
“It feels awesome to get all of this support. Hawaii is home and there is no other place better than Hawaii. “
Chun and Lee leave for London on July 24. Chun wrestles in the 48 kg weight class on August 8 and Lee will wrestle at the 67 kg weight class on August 9.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.