Loretta Yajima

Wednesday - January 17, 2007
By Kerry Miller | Share Del.icio.us

Loretta Luke Yajima has dedicated her heart and soul to the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center. As president of its board of directors, she says she works “seven days a week and very long hours,” but doesn’t consider it work, only a labor of love.

The result of her efforts, and those the volunteers with whom she works, is a variety of new things happening at the center.

In 1989, what is now the 38,000-square-foot CDC was housed in a small space at the Dole Cannery. For the last eight years, Yajima has run the center from its waterfront location in Kakaako.

“This December we celebrated our eighth birthday,” says the 1992 MidWeek cover subject. “Much of that time we were the only presence in the park; somehow the families, by word of mouth, found their way.”

The Children’s Discovery Center, as Yajima describes it, is a place for parents and children to learn together through play. Besides ongoing activities, they hold special events throughout the year, including a “New Year’s at Noon” toast with apple juice (Yajima is pictured above at the Dec. 31, 2006 “New Year’s at Noon” event with Rysa Tanioka, Jack Plummer, Remy Fung and Aina Katsikas), the keiki fun run, keiki swap meet, Halloween and other holiday events.

Currently, the center serves more than 77,000 children and families, Yajima says, and it’s still growing. Children preschool age and up go through the doors every day, with even high school-age students coming in to work with the younger kids.

As for the center’s future, Yajima says an expansion is in the works to be able to accommodate more school groups and offer additional space for workshops for parents, teachers and kids. They also hope to build a kids cafe on site.

“We have to raise about $6 million,” she says. “We are very grateful for the support that we can get from the public.”

The East Honolulu resident also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Children’s Museums. She thanks her husband, Tyler, and three daughters for supporting her in all the work she does.

“My family, as you can imagine, has been wonderfully supportive. This year has marked 20 years that I’ve been a full-time volunteer for the center. This is something that I feel very passionately about.”

What would she do without the discovery center in her life? “I’ve always wanted to learn to play golf, but haven’t had time to do it. I feel old and tired after 20 years,“Yajima laughs, adding that her husband has given up his efforts to get her swinging some golf clubs.

- Kerry Miller

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