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Nicole Kato

Roy Yonashiro

Photo from Roy Yonashiro

When you do something you love, it’s hard to break away, and Roy Yonashiro, recruitment specialist for the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry, can relate.

He started as a volunteer with the organization in 1989, when wife Annie’s classmate Patricia Ikeda Tamashiro was diagnosed with leukemia. At the time, there were very few Asian donors registered.

Yonashiro and Annie continued to volunteer and, in 1994, he was offered a full-time position with the organization.

“There’s no way I could say no,” Yonashiro says, noting the job’s rewarding aspects. “I get to meet great people, gracious people.

“I’ve always liked what I do, and I belive in what I do.”

The reasoning behind his passion for his job lies in the statistics.

There are 10.5 million people in the national bone marrow registry, and Caucasians make up 67 percent of donors, while Asians/South Asians make up only 7 percent, and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders make up even less at 0.2 percent.

In Yonashiro’s eyes, the Asian and Native Hawaiian populations were very under-represented, and this spurs his desire to get the community involved in saving lives.

“If you’re between 18 and 44, you can sign up,” he urges.

When Yonashiro isn’t wearing the hat of recruitment specialist, he serves as lead vocalist for Funkshun, belting out 1970s and ’80s music on the weekends.

Yonashiro, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover March 9, 2005, and Annie celebrated their 25th anniversary last week, the same day as daughter Adrie’s birthday.

“That way I’ll never forget,” he says with a laugh.

The couple also has a son, Reyn, who is attending Seattle Community College, and Adrie attends William S. Richard School of Law at UH. They also have a Shih Tzu, Izzie, who adorns the screen saver on Yonashiro’s phone.

He also notes that Annie is the organization’s biggest supporter and co-chairs the fundraising events for the registry along with Wes Fujimoto, Annie’s classmate from Hilo High School (class of 1972).

To raise awareness about the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry, the organization is hosting its third annual golf tournament Sept. 13 at Hawaii Prince Golf Course. The scramble format will be comprised of three-man teams for $150 a person.

This year’s tournament committee is headed by Aaron Miyakawa, director of restaurants and special events for the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki and Golf Club.

Aside from the tournament, shoot a hole-in-one for a chance to win a car, and food and refreshments will be available on the course. There will be entertainment provided by Ben Vegas (Yonashiro’s Kaimuki High classmate) and comedian Rodney Villanueva.

For more information, email HBMDRgolftournament@gmail.com or call 547-6154.

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