Coralie Matayoshi of the Red Cross gets a hand from Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona to promote the Red Cross’ big Jan Ken Po tournament on March 7 at Bishop Square. The event kicks off Red Cross Month to raise funds

Susan Sunderland
Friday - March 07, 2008
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Constance Lau of American Savings Bank
Constance Lau of American Savings Bank gets a hand up on Robert Fujioka of First Hawaiian in 2007

Bring your fists to Tamarind Park Friday, March 7, and show the world how we make simple decisions in Hawaii. Can’t decide who goes first or which team to choose? We simply jan ken po and resolve the issue. We don’t need complicated caucuses and a lot of filibuster to decide an outcome.

To demonstrate the power of this tactic - count them - not one, not two, not three, but all four mayors of our sometimes-indecisive state will assemble at downtown Tamarind Park to face off in a Jan Ken Po contest sponsored by the American Red Cross. Program runs 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the corner of King and Bishop streets with all sorts of activities and attractions.

But no doubt the four county honchos will steal the show. After all, it’s rare to have the Honorable Bryan “Rambo” Baptiste (Kauai), Mufi “Hands-On” Hannemann (Oahu), Harry “Knuckles” Kim (Big Island) and Charmaine “Champ” Tavares (Maui) mix it up like this.

Who will win the coveted Mayor’s Cup? Our money’s on the quickest hands and the keenest strategist. Come to cheer on your favorite contestant, and may the best fist win.

We watched Hannemann in a practice session recently and can tell you that the man’s got moves and a rhythm that will be hard to beat. He even has the cadence down pat, shouting, “Jan ken po. Ai kono sho. Junk an’a po. I canna show!”

In addition to the Mayors main event, there is a Celebrity Jan Ken Po competition, emceed by KHON’s Kirk Matthews, pitting corporate executives against community leaders and entertainers. HEI exec Connie Lau will defend her title. There will be more fists shaking and victory shouts at this event than raging radicals at a protest rally.

And it’s all for a good cause.

Vicky Cayetano's paper covers Jim Yates' rock
Vicky Cayetano’s paper covers Jim Yates’ rock in 2007 as Peter Carlisle officiates

This is the annual,“Hats Off to American Red Cross” event, kicking off National Red Cross Month. Hawaii Red Cross CEO Coralie Matayoshi and her staff stage this public gathering to remind us of the critical importance of the organization in our community. Last year, the Hawaii Red Cross responded to 104 disasters (twice a week), providing food, clothing, shelter and emotional support to 130 local families (including 536 individuals).

The humanitarian assistance is based strictly on people power through volunteers and donations. No government funding - not a penny of tax money - is involved in the work of the Red Cross. Never has been; never will be.

The March 7 kickoff event will showcase health and safety services, including CPR, first aid and workplace training, plus lunch-hour offerings such as Morton’s steak plates, Lawyers for Red Cross baked goodies, and Starbucks drinks. You can also get a massage to unwind from job stress.

Then Saturday, March 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., off-duty firefighters, police officers, civil defense, military, businesses, clubs and individual volunteers will be at various neighborhood locations to collect donations to the Red Cross. If you can’t make it to a collection point, you can donate online at www.hawaiiredcross.org

“Money is always a challenge,” says Matayoshi. “We’re not a government agency, yet we’re expected to respond to all disasters. In fact, we are mandated by Congress to respond, but we are not funded to do so.

“We rely on the generosity of donors. If everyone gave a dollar, we’d have a million dollars to support our projects,” she says.

The Hawaii Red Cross responds to local disasters two to three times a week. It teaches 36,000 people per year how to save lives through various training classes. It also provides emergency communications between deployed Hawaii soldiers and loved ones.

Mayor Hannemann reminds us that City and County services are first responders in an emergency.

“This is a close and natural relationship,” he says. “I shudder to


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