Stealing Memories

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - July 11, 2007

It’s not often a news report will bring you to tears. However, you must have a heart of stone if you were not moved by the tragic events that befell some youngsters on the North Shore.

A group of Hawaii and California kids, all sharing similar experiences of heart disease and defect, converged at the beautiful Camp Mokuleia. The setting is idyllic - a far cry from the sterile conditions of hospitals, clinics and doctors offices to which these children are accustomed. The activities were as you would expect at a summer camp: swimming, hiking, cookouts and the occasional scary campfire stories. Parents, who have their own challenges to deal with, were side-by-side with their kids.

Camp Taylor Inc., a California-based agency, was the lead organization in bringing together Hawaii and California families contending with heart disease and defect. The touching element to this conclave is that younger children with such afflictions can meet, talk with and even touch older kids. It seems to me that this would be an affirmation of the hope and encouragement expressed by parents and physicians alike. These younger children would know that there is a future and they can grow older. The accounts given by parents of older children cradling their new younger friends is an expression of pure humanity we sometimes are not privileged to see.

As a parent, there is nothing more in life you desire than to see your kids safe, secure, happy and healthy. It is our job to make this happen. When a child suffers from a debilitating disease, I can only imagine the heartache of seeing your son or daughter submit to a battery of tests, frequent office visits or extended hospitalization. I know the spirit is strong, and families in this situation are dealing with it as best they can. But it can’t be easy and there is no real relief from the reality.

That’s why the time at Camp Mokuleia was magical. If for but a few days, parents and children were more concerned with which beach to visit rather than which doctor do we see today.

It was a few days where maybe the kids didn’t feel different or feel sick.

That is why the reports of thievery from this group is so infuriating. Thugs, cretins, punks - whatever word you wish to describe the cruel individual or individuals responsible for ripping off these kids and their families. While the camp was coming to an end, the Hawaii kids had already left, someone infiltrated the camp and stole cash, cell phones, a camcorder, computer and hard drive. Nice.

The cell phones, cash and other items can be replaced. What cannot be replaced are the more than 4,000 pictures and five hours of video stolen. The computer stolen contained all the images documenting this incredible time shared by those at Camp Mokuleia.

It is reported that the parent of a thief responsible returned the items to the camp, but the computer hard drive and all its files were gone - cleaned out. Why? One can only assume it was being prepared for a sale. If this story is true, and if the parent of the perpetrator returned these items, then where is the kid? What consequence is there for his or her actions? Why would the parent not call the police and report this theft? Answers to these questions remain unanswered for now.

When you steal a piece of jewelry, a set of golf clubs or a computer, you are not just taking some item to sell for cash. You are violating a person’s sense of security. You are stealing their goods, but you are also injuring their spirit.

In the case of the kids at Mokuleia, this thief stole their memories of a time that is impossible to re-create. These families have been denied the joy of reliving this experience and are relegated to what they individually remember. It’s not the same.

I am not sure there is a law that addresses the stealing of memories. Even if there is, I am not sure there would be sufficient punishment to fit the crime.

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