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Make-A-Wish Hawaiʻi Teen Wish Granted

By Nathan Christophel
December 5, 2021, 5:16 PM HST
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The reactions on the faces of the East Hawaiʻi family when the silver Toyota Tacoma came around the corner Sunday, Dec. 5, in the parking lot of Hilo’s Francis Wong Stadium were priceless. Words couldn’t begin to describe the emotions that flashed across their faces.

It was a dream come true for Kekamakai, known to his family and friends as Kaikua. The 17-year-old “Wish Kid” from Kurtistown stood next to his mother, Randell, who at one point covered her face with her hands as she began to cry, and other family members while the truck pulled up.

“This is amazing,” Randell said. “Totally, totally amazing.”

Surrounded by more than 50 people, including family and friends, Kaikua was given the keys to the spruced up Tacoma during a special wish reveal event put on by Make-A-Wish Hawaiʻi. He suffers from kidney disease and complications from treatment and became eligible for a wish to be granted through the organization.

His wish was to have his father’s 2008 Tacoma refurbished.

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The truck had 180,000 miles on it and Kaikua’s parents knew they wanted to give it to him when he started driving. They purchased a new truck in 2019 so they could give him the older Toyota, but they knew it would need some love. Randell said it had its issues, such as fading paint and shaking while being driven, among others, and it would have been expensive to fix.

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“That thing was pretty bad,” Randell said.

So it was a dream come true when Make-A-Wish provided the opportunity to refurbish the vehicle. Kaikua’s wish was inspired by Mano, another Hawaii teenager who wished for his family’s Mustang to be refurbished.

Through a partnership with Par Hawaiʻi and the Hawaiʻi Community College Auto Body Repair and Painting program, the organization was able to make Kaikua’s wish a reality. Students of the HCC program completely overhauled the Tacoma, which now looks closer to a 2021 model than it does its former self. It also came loaded with several other perks such as a new sound system and new tires.

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The truck looked so different, Kaikua wasn’t even sure it was the same vehicle. He knew his wish was granted, but he didn’t know what the truck would look like when it was finished. He said it was a huge surprise to see it and it surpassed all of his expectations. He and his family were shocked that it was the same Tacoma.

“I was like, brah, that’s not my truck,” Kaikua said after the reveal.

He and his mother had nothing but high praise for the students who did the refurbishment.

“All the guys that did em, I mean, they’re just all legends,” Kaikua said.

Randell called Kaikua’s new ride a “pavement princess” at one point after the reveal and kidded with her son that maybe it should have a different driver.

“Mom should drive this,” she said while admiring the truck. “He should drive the other car.”

The day was made even more special by several of Randell’s family members from Maui making the trek to the Big Island to be at the event. Jessica, the mother of fellow wish kid McKella, who are Kaikua’s volunteer Wish Granters, also attended. Unfortunately, McKella was not able to be there.

McKella and Jessica met Kaikua at Kapi’olani Medical Center in Honolulu when McKella was receiving chemotherapy. Kaikua was undergoing treatment at the time, which his body was rejecting. Their new friendship bloomed out of their difficult circumstances.

The crowd also included people from Make-A-Wish Hawaiʻi, HCC and other friends of the family.

The number of people there might have been just as much of a surprise to Kaikua as the truck.

“I wasn’t expecting all these people to be here,” he said.

And to add to the celebration, it was Kaikua’s little brother Moku’s 14th birthday Sunday. The crowd even sang “Happy Birthday.”

The reveal event included a blessing of the truck and comments from the family and Trini Kaopuiki-Clark, the president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Hawaiʻi, who thanked everyone for coming and lauded the efforts by those who made the wish come true possible.

“From the bottoms of our hearts, thank you so much,” said Kaopuiki-Clark.

Kaikua’s mom echoed that sentiment.

“Thank you all for allowing this to happen for him,” Randell said after the truck was revealed. “Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo.”

“This is like the happiest day of my life, for him,” she said later.

Kaikua wasn’t sure early Sunday afternoon where he was going to take his new truck for its first ride. But a beach cruise down Keaukaha way sounded like a good plan after his mom suggested it. Especially to test out that new sound system.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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