Kualoa Ranch Hosts Day For HUGS Ohana

On a sunny day in late July, 1,000 paper cranes were hung amid the lush greenery and white sands of Kualoa Ranch’s Secret Island. Gathered there were 150 people for HUGS’ Celebration of Life, an occasion that honors children who have battled terminal illness and helps their families heal.

“It’s a family day, a day in which we take time to have a special remembrance for the children we’ve lost,” said Joan Naguwa, executive director of HUGS (Help, Understanding & Group Support). The nonprofit hosts its Celebration of Life every year.


Image 2 of 2

The Green ohana (from left) RJ, Alphonso, Phyllis and Ryan, were among 150 guests at a special day of remembrance and reflection July 27, sponsored by Help, Understanding & Group Support (HUGS) and held at Kualoa Ranch's Secret Island. Photo from HUGS.

The paper cranes were inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia at age 12 as a result of radiation poisoning from the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima in World War II. This year, there was also a “memory tree,” where families could write, share and hang memories of their children, and the peaceful island also gave families the chance to eat, relax and play in the ocean.

Naguwa said that Secret Island was selected as the venue thanks to a “generous” gift from the Morgan family, owners of Kualoa Ranch. Thirty volunteers from Locations Foundation also assisted at the event.

This one-day celebration is a drop in the ocean of what HUGS does for its families. “We serve over 200 families a year, and … we don’t just serve them once, we serve them over the long term of their child’s illness and bereavement and beyond,” Naguwa said.

It’s not unusual for HUGS to work with a family for five years or more, she noted, doing whatever is needed, whether that’s helping neighbor island families get airfare to the mainland for medical treatment or providing gifts for hospitalized children.

HUGS does not receive government funding for its mission, and it welcomes community support. Visit hugslove.org or call 738-4846 to learn more.