Hilo Community Comes Together to Celebrate, Honor 2020 Grads

June 21, 2020, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated June 21, 9:03 AM
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What started with one man’s idea to buy 350 cupcakes for Hawai‘i County’s 2020 high school graduates, snowballed into a community event bringing businesses and nonprofits together in honoring seniors during a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has forbidden large gatherings, including graduation ceremonies.

With live music playing, the driveway at the Island of Hawai‘i YMCA in Hilo was lined with graduates to pick up their “grad packs” on Saturday. Each person got a lei and a pack, filled with certificates and products from local businesses.

The event was a collaborative effort between the Hawai‘i Rise Foundation and Kamaka Dias. Breeani Sumera-Lee, program director for the nonprofit said Dias came to her with the idea to do something for the graduates. From there, over 20 local businesses joined in the effort to contribute to the event.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to sponsor this and to do something nice for the class of 2020,” Sumera-Lee said.

Dias had the idea to do something for the graduates when he learned his little brother wouldn’t be walking due to crowd restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.


“I wanted to do something to recognize him,” Dias said of his brother. “It was pretty sad, even for the families when the graduations were canceled.”


With his stimulus check he received through the CARES Act, Dias decided to spend it all on doing something for his brother along with Hawai‘i Island’s graduating seniors.

“Initially my idea was to hand out 350 cupcakes,” he said.

Eventually, Dias connected with Hawai‘i Rise Foundation and they came up with the idea for “grad packs.”


“We’re honored he asked us to be a part of this,” Sumera-Lee said. “Everyone is in good spirits, grateful and appreciative to have made it this far.”

Holli Macanas, graduate of Hilo High School, said she was proud of her community for coming together to make the 2020 class feel special.

“I’m happy they see the beauty in helping us,” Macanas said.








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