Fish Fry Funds College Scholarships

The smell of fried fish recently filled the air in Windward Oahu for what’s quietly become an annual tradition in Kailua.

“Yes, it’s that time of the year again!” says an excited Don Weir. The city of Milwaukee may be home to the original Friday Fish Fry, but for the past four years, Kailua residents have been hosting a pretty special event of their own.


Image 1 of 3

Dave Szabo, Scott Woodward and Don Weir donate 10 percent of their catch to help Kailua youths PHOTO COURTESY DON WEIR

While Milwaukee’s strong Catholic community created its Friday Fish Fry, a few canoe paddlers who wanted to make a difference in the lives of young men and women established the Kailua Canoe Club Fish Fry.

“Kailua Canoe Club scholarships are awarded to graduating seniors who are continuing with their education,” says Weir, the event’s founder and longtime Kailua paddler. “Scholarships are awarded for the first semester and may be renewed with completion of exemplary scholarship for the second semester.

“It’s a home-cooked effort to raise funds to support Kailua youths.”

Funding for the scholarships comes from the club’s annual fish fry at the end of the summer regatta season.

Every year, Weir and his Mainland fishing partners (The Zoo Boys) generously donate 10 percent of their total catch off Baja, Calif., from the month of June to make this event happen.

“We came back from Baja with enough hamachi to cover the fish fry fundraiser once again!” says Weir. “As usual, we also came back with some great fishing stories from the trip. It’s gratifying to have the support of fishing partners, friends, fellow paddlers and relatives.”

This year’s $500 scholarship recipient is Zoe Herrera, a 2014 graduate of Kalaheo High School.

Herrera maintained an amazing 4.188 GPA while taking several honors classes.

Besides paddling for Kailua Canoe Club for the past four seasons, Herrera volunteered her time at a horse stable in Waimanalo, where she helped disadvantaged children ride.

She also performed community service by clearing invasive species from local loi (taro) patches and served as the chairperson of a senior class event that raised money for their Project Grad festivities.

“I also volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool and was on the blood drive committee for my high school,” says Herrera, 18. “It’s been a very busy year!” Herrera leaves next month for

Oregon State University, where she plans to major in Exercise and Sports Science.

“It’s really nice of them to reward me and I’m really thankful that they chose me,” says Herrera. “This scholarship is really going to help me with my schooling and expenses for my freshman year at Oregon State.”

The scholarship isn’t new to the Herrera family. Zoe’s 20-year-old brother Nick was awarded the scholarship twice.

Nick finished his first two semesters at Windward Community College with a perfect 4.0 and is expected to continue his education this fall at University of Hawaii at Manoa in the School of Mechanical Engineering.

“It’s nice to keep it in the family,” chuckles Zoe.

For $30 ($25 presale), attendees of the Kailua Canoe Club Fish Fry enjoyed a massive feast.

The contribution also entered everyone into a drawing for prizes donated by several Kailua businesses including Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop, Baci Bistro, Lanikai Juice, Morning Brew and Island Snow.

“This year we are taking the remainder of the proceeds (an estimated $500-$700) and starting a fund to help rebuild the Lokahi (one of Kailua Canoe Club’s koa canoes),” says Weir. “This canoe is used by the keiki during the regatta season and fits in with our fish fry saying, ‘It’s for the kids.’ We’re excited for Zoe and look forward to continuing the tradition.”

Fish lovers in Kailua are looking forward to continuing the tradition as well.