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Back to School Bash a smash in LIhu‘e

LIHU‘E — Resembling a scene from the pre-COVID days of the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair, thousands of keiki accompanied by their families filled the walkways of Kukui Grove Center during the ninth annual Back to School Bash on Saturday.

“This is all possible because of the sponsors,” said Melissa McFerrin-Warrack of Kukui Grove Center. “This event is definitely growing. We want more community groups like Hale ‘Opio and the Micronesians (who will be hosting their own respective Back to School drives) to become part of this. They’re all part of the community, and we want them to be included. It’s the community coming together that makes this work and keep growing.”

The primary goal of the Back to School Bash was the distribution of nearly 3,000 free backpacks to students ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. The backpacks were appropriately broken down and filled with school supplies appropriate for elementary, middle and high school students.

“Come get your backpack,” said Nely Caberto of the state Department of Education Kaua‘i Complex Area that includes schools from Hanalei to Kekaha. “No need feel shame. This is for everyone. And, it’s free!”

In addition to the backpacks that families needed to be preregistered for, a secondary table of school supplies for those who missed the preregistration was manned by volunteers distributing free school supplies like notebooks, folders, pencils, crayons and more. Volunteers were kept busy throughout the four-hour pickup period, and supplies never ran out.

“We couldn’t register,” said a family from Kekaha who dropped in on the event from the Kaua‘i Police Activities League flag football games at the Vidinha Stadium soccer fields in Lihu‘e. “But since we’re here in Lihu‘e, we just thought we would see what this is about.”

They were pleasantly surprised as they left with a boxload of free school supplies for their family that includes students attending elementary and high school.

“Supporting Kaua‘i families and creating experiences for families to enjoy together is very important to us at Kukui Grove,” said David Sosner, Kukui Grove general manager and vice president. “It is our privilege to be able to work alongside so many of our Kaua‘i businesses and organizations to help the students get a strong start to the school year. Each year, we work to make it even better than the year before.”

Joining the backpack distribution, the Kaua‘i Planning &Action Alliance, Keiki to Career/Kaua‘i Resilience Project coordinated a group of community partners offering information and interactive activities through a passport program where participants earned eligibility for prizes by stopping and getting stamped at various activity stations while entertainment added to the day’s electricity.

Some of that activity included a HydroFlask-sponsored carnival-type game at the sidewalk sale put up by Deja Vu Surf Hawai‘i, and one of the few times that Macy’s sprouted quick tents for a sidewalk sale featuring everything from toys to linen.

“I have to thank the volunteers,” said state Department of Education (DOE) Kaua‘i Complex Area Superintendent Daniel Hamada, who dropped in to share the day’s excitement. “They’re really working hard.”

Some of the many hands involved in this year’s ninth Back to School Bash joining Kukui Grove Center and DOE included the Hawai‘i Foodservice Alliance-Kaua‘i, which brought over a crew from Honolulu to help with the distribution of its snacks and “Kaua‘i cowboys” shirts.

Also participating were the Sheraton Kaua‘i Resort and Kaua‘i’s credit unions, as wella as the Kaua‘i Board of Realtors, who kept the overflow supplies table stocked. The Keiki to Career/Kaua‘i Resilience Project contributed numerous prizes for keiki to experience the passport program, and the KQNG Radio Group was present.

Other sponsors included Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, Wilcox Health, Hawai‘iUSA Federal Credit Union, Sign Art, Aqua Engineers, Hawai‘i Island Dental, Hilton Garden Inn Wailua Bay Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i Medical Service Association, Kamehameha Schools Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, Earthworks Pacific, Bread and Deli Connection, Royal Sonesta Kaua‘i Resort Lihu‘e, Aloha Freight, Bayada Rehabilitation, Kaua‘i Society of Artists, Layton Construction, Hawai‘i Building Maintenance, Delta Kappa Gamma, The Garden Island and Midweek newspapers and Alpha Kappa Gamma.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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