A Shindig For Sean Koahou

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - February 13, 2008
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Sometimes life just stops you in your tracks. There you are, complaining about the fact that someone in the nine-items-only line has 11 yogurts - and then something really important happens.

Kyle Nakayama at The Willows is a dad to two little boys, ages 3 years and 2 months. His friend Jody Yamauchi-Oku is mom to Jonah, who’s 4. She sent him an e-mail Monday about her co-worker Casey Koahou.

“You see, Casey and her husband, Sean, are the parents of a 3-year-old toddler and a 3-month-old baby. Casey is a teacher at Pope Elementary School in Waimanalo, and Sean is a painter. Last week, Sean was diagnosed with stage 4 renal (kidney) cell carcinoma. He needs urgent and immediate treatment or he will die. But Casey has used up all her medical leave staying home with their newborn son, and now there’s no vacation time, no sick time and soon the couple will have no income.

“When I got the e-mail, I was just stunned,” says Kyle. “I knew that we had to do something to help.” It’s a reaction that everyone who’s read the e-mail has had.

“Casey had planned to take some unpaid leave to stay home with her babies,” says Jody, “but now she is going wherever Sean needs to go for treatment.”

Casey is a naturally private person and hadn’t shared any of this devastating news with her colleagues; it was a group of tennis-playing friends from Kailua who began the e-mail chain last week.

“Sean and Casey are wonderful people,” says Jody. “I can’t imagine what this is like for them.” And no one can remain untouched after reading the last line of Jody’s e-mail. “Sean’s sister passed away a few years ago, leaving behind a baby girl, so Casey and Sean have watched and cared for the little girl every weekend to help the single father. Now, I feel like someone needs to step up to help them.”

Sentiments are echoed by Kyle. “I look at my boys and I realize how incredibly lucky we are,” he says. “I can only think that any parent of young children would feel the same.”

So he’s doing what Hawaii restaurant professionals do best - holding a big old shindig of a fundraiser to give you more than you could ever eat or drink for your money, and then donating it to the Koahou family. Music, wine and spirits along with a menu that includes heavy pupu like honey hoisin-glazed chicken, chicken katsu, kabayaki flank steak and furikake-crusted musubi are just some of the items that will be served at the Feb. 20 fundraiser. Beers have been donated by Keoki Brewing Company, and Kai Vodka and Southern Wines and Spirits are providing the beverages.

Tickets cost $45 per person.

Kyle printed up a couple of hundred tickets in the hope of selling the evening out, but the sturdy Willows can handle a great deal more than that. And in the midst of a breast-feeding schedule that leaves little time for rest, caring for a toddler and making plans to leave for medical care wherever they can find it, Casey is simply overwhelmed by this response from strangers to her family. “She can’t believe that people who don’t even know her would care to help,” says Jody. “She’s speechless.”

Go hug your partner, kiss your children and then call Kyle at The Willows.

See you there.

The Willows Fundraiser For Sean Koahou is Feb 20.

Ticket sales and reservations: 952-9200 or 497-2900.

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