A Little Help, Please, For A Helper

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - April 07, 2010
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Doris Sullivan has helped hundreds of deserving Hawaii student-athletes earn college athletic scholarships and financial aid over the past several years. Now, Doris needs our help.

For years she has run Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance on a shoestring budget. The nonprofit organization helps local students market themselves to colleges and universities, runs an athletic combine to measure athletes’ skills, helps them with SAT and financial aid preparation, keeps coaches and athletes updated with key information on the PIAA Web site, and constantly communicates with coaches, parents and athletes on where scholarships and financial aid might be available.

“We educate the families on what they can and cannot do in the process. That’s very important,” she says.

Since 2003, when PIAA was started, she helped more than 1,000 local athletes realize their college dreams - football players from Nanakuli, Waialua and Kalihi, volleyball players from Kaneohe, soccer stars from Waipahu, girls basketball stars from Kailua, softball players from Mililani and many other small places, too. She has guided them to schools like Washington, Arizona, Fordham, Duquesne, St. Francis, Missouri Valley, Western Oregon, Montana Western, Fort Lewis and, yes, the University of Hawaii.

“This past year alone, our kids earned approximately $2 million in financial aid and scholarships,” she says proudly.

She does all this and doesn’t get paid. Neither does her all-volunteer staff of assistants including local football greats Darnell Arceneaux and Eddie Klaneski. They do it because they love helping these promising student-athletes, many of whom would never get this far without PIAA’s assistance.

But Sullivan can’t keep doing this, trying to run her organization on meager grant funds and spending some of her own money. At some point, the pot is going to run dry, especially in today’s economy.

“If we don’t make what we need, then next February the National Letter of Intent signing day will be our last,” she says.

And she means it.

Her organization charges only a flat fee of $60 for athletes and their families to sign up for its services. She’s not going to raise that fee. “I want to be sure that low-income kids have as much of a chance as higher-income kids,” she says.

She’ll continue to apply for grants. And she recognizes that a lot of nonprofits are in similar situations because of the poor economy. “We’re not alone,” she says.

PIAA doesn’t need a great deal of money to do what it does so well. She figures they spend about $15,000 a year running its combine and workshops, marketing and paying for what little overhead they have. They spend another $25,000 or so to be involved with the American Football Coaches Association event each year - a partnership that puts more than 5,000 to 10,000 local athlete DVDs in front of more than 7,000 coaches around the country - and not just football coaches because many of those DVDs are from soccer, softball, basketball and other sports.

Sullivan figures that she has raised about 25 percent of her necessary funds.

So, what can you do to help her the rest of the way? More importantly, what can you do to ensure that this needed service that provides so much assistance to local student-athletes doesn’t go away?

There are several ways to help.

First, there’s a golf tournament on May 11 - the Howard K. Oda/PIAA Benefit Golf Tournament at Waikele Country Club costs just $160 per entry, or a team of three golfers pays $480. Several University of Hawaii football coaches will be participating and you can bid to play with them.

Second, there’s a training clinic that is open to youngsters between 13 and 18. The Championship Training Clinics are run by former UH football star Kenny Patton every Sunday in May at Radford High School, and the cost is just $100. There also is a Coaches Clinic on May 22 at the East-West Center for coaches in football, volleyball, softball and soccer. Then, on May 29, there is the annual PIAA Combine open to student-athletes in every sport.

You can get more information on these events on the PIAA Web site, http://www.pacificathleticalliance.c om.

The bottom line is you can help. Even if it’s simply picking up the phone and calling Sullivan at her office, 261-5000 - just ask how.

She and PIAA deserve our support.

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