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Keiki Fishing Tourney
KANEOHE, Hawaii -- Stephanie Kafer, 8, beams with pride over her catch at the annual Keiki Fishing Tournament at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens June 10. The family-friendly event has been hosted by the Friends of Hickam for 10 years now. Keiki caught a record-setting 449 fish this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)
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Keiki hooked on fishing

Posted 6/22/2009   Updated 6/25/2009 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
15th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/22/2009 - HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Children bobbed with energy and excitement as they eagerly anticipated grabbing a fishing pole and getting the hook wet. 

Keiki caught a record-setting 449 fish at the 10th Annual Keiki Fishing Tournament, hosted by Friends of Hickam, June 10 at the Ho`omaluhia Botanical Gardens. What started as a suggestion a little more than 10 years ago has become a legacy for the Friends of Hickam. 

"We are very fortunate for the support we have had in helping us make this event happen for 10 years," said Clearance Apau, Friends of Hickam Keiki Fishing Tournament committee member. 

"It's been beautiful. It just keeps getting better and better." 

The children and their parents arrived at the gardens to the wafting smells of hamburgers and hot dogs sizzling on the grill. They filled their bellies and washed it down with a cold drink. 

Col. Russ Quinn, Pacific Air Forces Headquarters safety director, and his son Ryan, sat on the roots of a tropical tree in the gardens chatting about the fishing adventures they have been on in Australia and the mainland and about the day's upcoming adventure.
"It's fun for me and dad," Ryan said. "I want to catch a whale-size fish," but added after a short pause, "maybe a baby whale." 

Once everyone was fed at the picnic-style lunch, Chris Lifu of the Polynesian Cultural Center wowed the crowd with demonstrations of how the Samoan culture makes fire by rubbing two sticks together, how they easily they crack open a coconut, the difference between coconut juice and milk, and how the men do all the major cooking while the women shop. 

After a few good laughs, the children and their parents made their way to the lake where they were to grab their fishing pole and spend the next 90 minutes attempting to catch as many fish as possible. 

And that they certainly did. Between cheers when someone pulled in a big fish and the dreaded "Ahhhh" when the big one spit out the hook, children stood on the edge of the lake eyeballing their bobbers intently, begging for it to go under water. According to Friends of Hickam, the keiki blew last year's records out of the water by catching 86 more fish than last year's record-setting 363 fish. 

"This is better than any day at work," Colonel Quinn said. "This really is a good time."
Though the children spent their afternoon hauling in the fish, it was the volunteers who ensured the catch was included in tournament numbers. When the fishers caught a fish, volunteers from Hickam were standing ready to measure and log the length and remove it from the hook. 

"It's fun seeing these kids get excited," said Matt Ball, a military spouse and volunteer at lakeside. "If I was a kid, I would have a lot of fun doing this. But seeing the excitement on their faces when they pull in a big catch has been more fun than fishing myself." 

Volunteers from Friends of Hickam and Hickam AFB also set up the fishing area, cooked lunch, and cleaned up after everyone went home. As well as helping with the logistics of the tournament, volunteers ensured two of the commander's key elements for the tourney were met: safety and sportsmanship. 

These topics were touched on by Col. Giovanni Tuck, 15th Airlift Wing commander, when he thanked Friends of Hickam for putting on the event and gave the keiki a pre-tourney pep talk, where he explained safety precautions and encouraged the children to be good sportsmen. 

"We could not do these events without Friends of Hickam," Colonel Tuck said to the group of children, parents and volunteers. "Safety and sportsmanship is the key to this being a successful event. If the youngster next to you catches a fish, congratulate them, don't get upset." 

The tournament was divided into boys and girls categories, and awards were handed out for most fish and the largest fish. Tournament winner for the boys was Taka Endo, 12, who caught 11 fish, and for the girls Jamie Valdez, 11, who caught 21 fish, the most in the tournament. 

This was the second year in a row Jamie won it for the girls and helped the girls beat the boys in the overall competition. During last year's event, she caught 10 fish. 

"I just watched the bobber the entire time," she said. "I made sure it went all the way under before I pulled on the fishing pole. I knew I caught it." 

She attributes her success for the past two years to her dad's hands. The smell of fish transferred from her dads hands to the bread and she thinks the fish weren't afraid to take the bait because of the smell. With one more year of eligibility, she plans to return to beat her record next year, knowing that she will have fun in the process. 

"It's really fun because the free food and prizes," Jamie said. "Getting to hang out with other people is fun too." 

At the end of the day, they were fished out, but not a single child walked away from their experience with empty hands. Though they were not going to be able to take the fish they caught home for dinner, each one received a door prize from the Friends of Hickam. From fishing poles and tackle boxes to volleyballs and snorkeling kits, the Hawaiian isles will be a nice playground for the keiki's new toys.

Editor's Note: Friends of Hickam would like to extend a heartfelt mahalo to the following individuals and businesses that have contributed their time and donated generously to make the Keiki Fishing Tournament a success. The Friends of Hickam would also like to dedicate the tournament in memory of Leonard Ciufo, a longtime supporter of the Keiki Fishing Tournament

Terren Alejado, Clarence Apau, Gerard Auyoung, Vernon Badua, Dr. Philip Breeze, Kevin Burkett, Romy Cachola, Myron Chang, Peggy Chasteen, Warren Chee, Leslie Cho, Steve Chow, Wendell Choy, Stuart Chun, Angelete Cotterell, The Danielson Company, Heather DeFries, Dan Dung, Nora Feuerstein, Dee Fujii, Ray Fujii, Frank Fujimura, Dwayne Fujitani, Leroy Ganotisi, David Gomez, Kenneth Hakoda, Sidney Hamada, Alan Haruki, Kealii Haverly, Hickam AFB - Volunteers, Mike Hirai, Arnold Hirotsu, Randall Ho, Les Hoshide, Josie Ing, Wayne Iseri, Rodney Izuo, Barry Kaplan, Duane Kau, Roy Kobatake, David Lee, Ron Lee, Terrance Lee, Lester Leu, Creasepaul Lifu, Steve Lipscomb, Arnold Lum, Paul Masuoka, Mike Meares, Jill Nakagawa, Carol Nakamura, Kyle Nakamura, Kimiya Nakano, Quan Nguyen, George Okamura, Stan Omizo, Howard Osedo, Rob Parke, Brian Perry, Tony Ramos, Roy Sasuga, Brian Sawai, Richard Serikaku, Shakespeare Tackle Company, Kelvin Shigemura, Shaun Singh, Chaplain Melvin Smith, Erin Smith, Gwen Suenaga, Ted Tadaki, Roy Takata, June Takekawa, Steve Takekawa, Gerald Takeuchi, Jimmy Tam, Craig Tamura, Lance Terayama, Kaleen Terayama, Marisa Terayama, Tab Terayama, Harold Tomomitsu, George Toyama, Brian Tsuruda, Col. Giovanni Tuck, Susie Tuck, Robin Umeda, Jean Williams, Calvin Wong, Newton Wong, Brian Yamada, Wayne Yamaguchi, Alan Yamamoto, Trudy Yamashita and Ashlyn Yokoyama.

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