Jimmy Kometani, Corbett Kalama And Amy Wilson

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - January 13, 2010
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As professional golfers and celebrities flock to Waialae Country Club for the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii this week, fans of the sport anxiously wait to see who will take home the $990,000 winner’s share of the $5.5 million purse.

But perhaps the biggest winners at the Sony Open are Hawaii charities. Since becoming a sponsor 11 years ago, Friends of Hawaii Charities (FOHC) has given proceeds from the annual golf tournament back to the community in the form of grants for local nonprofit organizations.

“It is only through (the) collaboration (of title sponsor Sony Corporation, charity partner The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Inc., and the many loyal sponsors, donors and volunteers) and spirit of giving that Friends is able to meet its $1 million charity goal,” says FOHC president Corbett Kalama (above, right).


 

Adds Jimmy Kometani (above, left), executive committee member with FOHC and co-vice chair of volunteers for the Sony Open in Hawaii: “In nine years, we’ve given $9 million to 350 charities ... but to give millions of dollars, especially in these tough economic times, it gives us a little more reason to keep going.”

The nonprofit has teamed up with the PGA Tour Wives Association (PTWA) to continue doling out the generosity through the launch of the “Blessings in a Backpack” program.

“FOHC is a positive light in the Hawaii community.

When the Blessings in a Backpack program came along, it was our first choice for Hawaii,” says Amy Wilson (right), president of PTWA (http://www.pgatourwives.org) and wife of pro golfer Mark Wilson.

The groups have been running a pilot program in three schools for the past six months, providing children from low-income families with backpacks full of healthy food each Friday to take home.

“It’s a means for them to have something to eat over the weekend,” says Kometani, who is the program’s executive liaison. “Since we started in August, it’s been going very, very well.”


That’s an understatement. Teachers are already reporting improved test scores, increased classroom attention, decreased detention rates, arguments among students, and visits to the school nurse because of headaches, fatigue and stomach aches.

“They are the future of this state,” says Wilson, “and lifting them up today will make a difference tomorrow. That is one of the reasons we really loved bringing Blessings in a Backpack to Hawaii: It is a program that can just grow and grow and reach as many of Hawaii youths as possible.”

 

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