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KS Maui Kindergartner Elijah Macloves enjoys time with his kūpuna during the Lā Kūpuna event on Wednesday (Sept. 13) inside the Nāmāhana Dining Hall on the māhele lalo campus.

KS Maui Lā Kūpuna event provides respite to West Maui ʻohana

Sept. 21, 2023

Celebrating its second year at Kamehameha Schools Maui, the Lā Kūpuna event welcomed over 250 grandparents of haumāna from grades K-5 on Wednesday (Sept. 13) at the Māhele Lalo campus.

While haumāna enjoyed talking, eating snacks and playing with their kūpuna, it also provided additional time and support for ‘ohana still recovering from last month’s wildfires.

“It’s very special to be here because all we have is time,” said kupuna kāne Gordon Casco, who was seated with kupuna wahine Jill and their mo‘opuna wahine Blake Patao (grade 3). “We want to spend as much time as we can with her. We don’t come to campus too often, and we live out in Napili too so it’s even further out. We’ll do whatever we have to do to come see her.”

The West Maui grandparents said their family did not lose their home in the wildfires, but their daughter lost her job and six of their relatives lost their homes. They said a total of about 20 displaced friends and family members were staying with them during the first week of the aftermath.

KS Maui 3rd grader Blake Patao joins kūpuna Gordon and Jill Casco at the Lā Kūpuna event.

“We’re just fortunate we had space for everybody and could make them feel comfortable and welcomed,” Casco said.

The grandparents said it was hard to send their granddaughter back to school from West Maui all the way to Upcountry but credited the counselors, bus drivers and Lemoe “Coach” Tua for their support.

“She loves being up here. This is her place,” Jill Casco said.

The event also provided time for kupuna Henry DeLima to see his grandsons Nahulu (kindergarten) and Kaleihulu (grade 2) on campus. DeLima said his grandsons take the bus every day from West Maui.

“They’re resilient,” DeLima said of his grandsons. “This is so special. It’s such a great event and that’s what’s so wonderful.”

KS Maui haumāna Nahulu (kindergarten) and Kaleihulu (grade 2) DeLima join their kupuna kāne Henry DeLima and their makuahine Hulali DeLima (KS Maui Hawaiian studies kumu) at the Lā Kūpuna event.

The two grandchildren follow a long legacy of DeLima ‘ohana at KS Maui, including their late grandmother and former Po‘o Kula Mrs. Lee Ann DeLima KSK’77, as well as their aunt, Hawaiian studies kumu Hulali DeLima KSM’08.

Hulali DeLima said her brother, Hoala, and his wife, Tina, lost their storefront, Lahaina Jewelry, on Front Street in the wildfires. She said the school has played a major role in helping her brother’s ‘ohana in providing them with everything they need for her nephews to continue their education.

“One thing we really didn’t have when we came back was shoes,” Hulali DeLima said. “We couldn’t find their sizes and it was a whole thing, but their two counselors, Jon [Kimoto] and Ashley [Canillo] bought them shoes, backpacks, school supplies, and just made them feel normal going back into their routine at school.”

“Everybody here just goes above and beyond and treats all haumāna like their own kids and I think that’s why it’s so easy for us to send them to school, even though at home we’re still recovering. It’s easy because everyone just takes on that role of makua and fills in where we lack.”

Other kūpuna celebrating the continued legacy of their ‘ohana at Kamehameha Schools included Philip (KSK’71) and Kathy Haake (KSK’70). The Maui natives boarded at the O‘ahu campus and currently have their grandchildren Colton (grade 3) and Keale (grade 7) enrolled at the Maui campus.

The two Kapālama grads said they are proud their grandchildren are learning more ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i than they were taught growing up.

“We just practiced for the song contest,” Philip Haake joked. “That was it. The education is much more broad. I was telling them (grandchildren) I have to pull out the history books to catch up with them.”

KS Maui 3rd grader Colton Haake joins kūpuna Philip (KSK ’71) and Kathy (KSK ’70) at the Lā Kūpuna event.

Kathy Haake said her grandson wanted to learn more about the moku of Maui, so they researched them together online and printed out a map.

“They want to understand more about what they’re learning” at school, she said.

Henry DeLima added that he is grateful for the education and support KS Maui has provided to his two grandsons, especially as his children push forward through the impacts of the wildfires.

“This situation and year we try to nurture them a lot more and make sure they’re doing their best,” he said. “Of course, I wish my wife was here, but we were very proud of our kids and grandkids, and what they’ve accomplished so far. We’re so grateful for Kamehameha Schools. We’ve been so blessed to be part of the Kamehameha ‘ohana.”

Hulali DeLima appreciated the opportunity to have her father attend the Lā Kūpuna and spend time with her nephews. She said feedback has been very positive and many wish it was even longer than the planned two hours.

“I think the parents are a little jealous,” she said. “It’s nice that the kūpuna want to come and that we get to honor them.”

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