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Lifestyle // Good Neighbors
Nicole Kato

Melodee Noni Haole

Photo from Melodee Noni Haole

Photo from Melodee Noni Haole

Families with children who have special needs understand the feeling of searching and coming up with no answers.

This is a problem Melodee Noni Haole ran into for years as she searched for help with her son Kelii (21, also pictured), who was born with a neurodevelopmental genetic disorder.

With no answers in sight, Haole started K.E.L.I.I. (Keiki Education Living Independent Institute), a nonprofit organization that aims to serve as a one-stop shop for families seeking help for children and young adults with genetic and neurodevelopmental disorders who have behavioral, mental and health disabilities.

The organization started as a thought four years ago, and planning began two years ago.

At the age of 16, Kelii suffered a major toxic event in his brain, resulting in significant impairments.

“We ended up with a 2-year-old all over again,” Haole says.

Children with special needs have programs to help them through elementary and high school, But when adulthood hits, the care they need tapers off. Also, young adults who age out (at 22) can no longer utilize the care services.

“Kelii is 21 now, and he ages out next year,” Haole says. “Everyone knows there’s a need out there.”

K.E.L.I.I. has partnered with organizations such as SECOH Pathway Skills Center, which has a center slated to open in July in Ewa, with other locations opening in Hawaii Kai and Kailua by the end of this year.

Partnerships like this are what K.E.L.I.I. is all about. Haole’s goal is to use a collaborative model to benefit those in the community.

According to Haole, her organization will serve as a vehicle that brings together agencies and individuals to work collaboratively to establish a seamless system of care for families with children and young adults with special needs.

K.E.L.I.I. will host its first car and bike show June 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Kapolei High School, with half the proceeds going to SECOH Pathway Skills Center. (The other half will go toward K.E.L.I.I.)

There will be an informational booth, food, raffles, silent auctions and more, and Haole is still accepting car entry registrations ($20) until the day of the show ($25). Entrance to the car show cost $5 for the public.

Haole’s goal is to keep the organization in the family. Currently, her daughter-in-law Jennifer Haole (married to eldest son Keoni) serves on the advisory board, while Haole’s middle son Keoki’s girlfriend, Lianne Yamane, is treasurer.

“My backbone and support, besides my husband, Jon, and my children, is my son’s skills trainers Emily Peneku and Ryan Saito,” Haole says.

For more information about the car show, call Haole at 927-5909, and for information on the organization, visit keliifoundation.webs.com.

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