Three Canoes Full Of Good News

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - December 09, 2009
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The blessing of three new outrigger canoes at McKinley High School

In a time when furlough Fridays, budget cuts and fundraisers to save high school sports are dominating headlines, it’s great to see a story surface that has a positive impact on our children without the hoopla or controversy.

McKinley High School recently received three brand new outrigger canoes valued at $35,000 as part of a federal grant program. No politics involved, and best of all, not a dime out of the state budget.

“Not at all, this is all federal money available to those who apply and qualify,” says Denise Darval-Chang, Honolulu District health and physical education resource teacher. “The funds are there. More people need to be aware of these grants.”

Each year, the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) awards millions of dollars to schools and community-based organizations across the country. The program’s goal is to initiate, expand and improve physical education programs and provide nutrition awareness. This includes after-school programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Grant recipients must implement programs that help students make progress toward meeting state standards.


The fund also may be used to provide equipment to give students opportunities to participate in physical education activities, and to support staff and teacher training and education.

Hawaii educators applied and qualified, and received $1.3 million of federal funds spread over a three-year period. Seven schools from the McKinley complex benefited, including students at McKinley High School.

“We were fortunate to get three brand new Bradley Lightning canoes as well as some weight-training equipment,” says Darval-Chang. “These canoes will last for a very long time and serve hundreds of students over the next few years. The grant’s objectives will be served with this.”

The three canoes were recently dedicated and blessed at McKinley High School and again at the Ala Wai. The canoes will be available to serve students in the McKinley complex, which includes Likelike, Kauluwela, Lanakila, Kaahumanu and Royal elementary schools and Central Middle School.

But the grant money went much further.

“Each of the elementary schools got part-time health and P.E. teachers as well as a ton of P.E. equipment and other resources,” says Darval-Chang. “We’re also able to offer free swimming lessons for grades 3, 4 and 5 at Palama Settlement and the Nuuanu YMCA.”

In addition to the positions at the elementary schools, Central Middle School was able to get funding for a part-time P.E. teacher as well as equipment, including heart monitors and dance mats.

“This is all gravy, but there’s a lot of work involved in making this happen. We ask a lot from the people behind the scenes,” says Darval-Chang. “If anything, that’s where we get stretched, but everybody knows the work benefits the children.”

The canoes’ arrival and blessing come at the right time. The high school paddling season recently got under way.

“Once we get them in the water, they’ll be put right to use,” says Darval-Chang, one of Hawaii’s top canoe steerswomen, having paddled competitively for more than 36 years. “The great thing is they’ll be available for other schools in the complex that want to make use of them as well.”


Over the last three years, the PEP grant program has improved physical and health education in many schools across the country. The good news is there are opportunities for more PEP grants in the future.

“I’m in the process of gathering data for the Roosevelt complex as we speak,” says an excited Darval-Chang, who also coaches keiki and women at Hui Nalu Canoe Club in Hawaii Kai. “If we are successful, we’ll reach seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one more high school. Hopefully we can continue.”

Steering Hawaii’s youths toward good health without costing the state a single penny.

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