Article and photos by Anne E. O’Malley
The strains of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as performed by the Kaua`i String Quartet welcomed guests to the 6th Annual Friends of Children’s Justice Center fundraiser held outdoors in back of the tennis courts at Kaua`i Lagoons.
Further entertainment featured hula performed by Halau Mohala O Ka Pua Hau Hele under the direction of Kumu Hula Puamohala Kaholokula and accompanied by Puamohala’s husband and son, musicians Robbie and Baron Kaholokula and also Pono Nero. Sean Carillo and Michael Barretto also entertained, individually.
Puamohala Kaholokula gave a blessing, guests moved to the light buffet, ordered beverages, conversed and perused the auction tables. In all, about 90 vendors provided food and auction items.
Jalene Huff, president of the board of Friends of Children’s Justice on Kaua`i, outlined what it is like for abused and neglected children to be able to come to the center with its comfortable design and atmosphere and tell their stories one time only in a safe environment, rather than having to repeat it numerous times to different agencies that get involved.
Emcee Greg Meyers, a former president of the board and an attorney in private practice, welcomed outgoing Children’s Justice Center Executive Director Tom French to the microphone to say a few words. French retired the same week as the fundraiser after having spent 10 years with the Center.
“The five Children’s Justice Centers [state-mandated, one for each of the main islands in the state] couldn’t exist without the Friends organizations,” said French.
The program also calls for a support organization for each center. This becomes the center’s funding arm.
Founded in 1989 by attorney Sara Silverman, who was also the first executive director and later moved onto the board where she also served more than a term as president, the Kaua`i Friends serves an important mission, as of course do the Friends organizations throughout the state. It is to provide support for the Center, including interviewing minors, training professionals, and providing awareness of and promoting prevention of child abuse and neglect. In addition, the Friends provide enhancements to local foster children and children who have been abused or neglected.
It’s one of those “quiet” organizations that packs a lot of punch with the funds raised at this annual event. It has to — statistics from the Hawaii Children’s Justice Centers website states that more than 50 percent of reported victims of crime are under 18 years of age; that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18; and that those numbers are likely low as such crimes are under reported.
For information about, to make donations to or to get involved with the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center on Kaua`i, call 808-246-6214.