Life Care Center of Kona’s paddlers

By Patricia Hedke, activity director


On April 23, 2017, Kai O Pua Canoe Club in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, hosted its annual Pau Hana Businessman’s Canoe Regatta.


We at Life Care Center of Kona jumped at the chance to be a bigger part of our community. Several associates paddle for Keauhou Canoe Club. They graciously encouraged any employees interested in paddling to come on down, get in a canoe and learn the basics of paddling.


Several of our leadership team members have not paddled before. Loading the canoes into the water, holding the paddle and learning the stroke allowed each of us in the canoe to work as one and to learn from each other.


Race day was a tropical, sunny day in Kailua-Kona. The pier was alive with excitement. We were all dressed in matching shirts, laughter and smiles – coming together as co-workers and friends in the community greeted each other.


Life Care Center of Kona entered two of the 20 heats.


The first race had our six-person crew: Emma Chandler, physical therapist assistant; Ashley Mikkola, occupational therapist; Ramona Crivello, admissions director; myself; Puhi (a Keauhou paddler) and Helen Hanson, admission assistant.


This crew took second place – silver medalists!


Our double-hulled canoe race took place later in the day. Participating in this competition were Chandler; Mikkola; myself; Debbie Bakken, medical records director; Cheryl Mentzer, dietitian; Irene Ascino, MDS nurse; Holly Raymer, executive director; Bonnie Hopf, housekeeping/laundry director; Cheryl Walters, unit manager; Rebecca Brewer, director of nursing; Morgan Williams, receptionist; and Candy Gire, staff development coordinator.


The sky was dotted with clouds, the trade winds picked up and the waves were rolling into shore. The long wait had our paddlers full of anticipation of the unknown as this was the first time racing for many of them. Each paddler was fitted for a paddle as the canoes waited near the shore for each paddler to get in his or her seat.


Hearts pounding, hands gripped firmly around the base and top of their paddles, off we went, one stroke at a time!


Off shore a little more than a quarter mile, the canoes waited for the flag to drop. Each paddler went through their own mantra, with one thought in mind, “Watch the paddle in front of you enter the water and exit at the same time.”


The announcer told the spectators, “Here is Life Care Center of Kona, the only all-woman’s crew out there! Let’s give them a hand! These angels take care of our kapuna (elders).”


The crowd cheered and clapped as our crew brought home the gold!


Our paddles were up. We all took a deep breath. We did it! We did it working as one team with one purpose in the big, beautiful Pacific Ocean!