Aileen Deese

Nathalie Walker photo

Nathalie Walker photo

Elmo, Barney, Pikachu, Minions, a Snow Queen and princesses — these are only a few on a long list of costumed characters set to make an appearance during Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii’s 28th annual Brunch With Santa.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says executive director Aileen Deese.

The event is slated for Saturday, Dec. 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pomaikai Ballrooms in Dole Cannery, and tickets still are available.

The family-friendly brunch will include an all-you-can-eat buffet, picture taking with Santa, games, entertainment by local group Island Storm and more.

Proceeds will go back to the organization in support of its mission: “To prevent child abuse through education, public awareness and advocacy, which promote positive parenting and healthy families where children are valued and loved.”

The organization has deep roots in Hawaii’s community, dating back to 1982, when a group of like-minded individuals who shared an interest in helping children formed it. As the only agency that focuses solely on the prevention of abuse and neglect of children, Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii works with the general public as a resource of information and support. The organization estimates that it annually reaches about 50,000 people on a face-to-face basis and roughly 500,000 through other public-awareness campaigns in print and other media.

Deese has been with Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii since 1991 as its program director, and took over as executive director last year.

“I love kids, and was really drawn to the mission of the agency of Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii, and how the work is to prevent child abuse before it occurs in the family and in homes,” she explains.

Her experience spans 38 years, and in her current position Deese leads staff and volunteers in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Her reason for doing so is really a simple one.

“I have a real passion for this field of work,” Deese says.

Abuse and neglect, she says, aren’t only physical. They also can pertain to parents or caregivers who do not properly feed children or prevent them from obtaining medical care and going to school regularly. It’s a widespread issue here, largely because of busy working parents.

And though others may be quick to judge, Deese cautions that there is no set criteria for families who fall into these patterns.

“People think, ‘well, it’s only poor people,'” she says. “But children are abused and neglected by parents or caregivers or adults from all incomes and nationalities in Hawaii.”

For more information on Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii, and to donate or get involved, visit or call 951-0200. Tickets to Brunch With Santa cost $35 for general admission, $25 for children ages 2-9; free for children under age 2.