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‘I’m Really Proud of Kona’ : Fill A Cruiser Food Drive Brings in Big Donations

By Tom Hasslinger
July 2, 2022, 12:03 PM HST
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The second annual “Fill A Cruiser Food Drive” bested last year’s totals, and the finally tally is still climbing.

This radio host knows how to raise food.

Tommy “Kahikina” Ching, one of the personalities that helped launch the Hawaiian music station KAPA-FM more than 20 years ago, might be better known for his food drives than his on air quips, and that’s saying something.

Kahikina has raised food for the Hawaiʻi Island Food Basket through his charity work, which has become a two-decade tradition in the community as the annual “Feed-a-Thon.”

His pizzazz and dedication has helped bring in brings in a million and half pounds of food for the local nonprofit.

On Friday morning, Kahikina took up the familiar cause in a similar, but different fashion by helping raise food and money during the second annual “Fill A Cruiser Food Drive” at Costco in Kailua-Kona. The relatively new effort is a collaborative effort between Hawai’i Police Department’s Kona Community Policing Section, Costco of Kona, the Food Basket Inc., and Kahikina to provide food to island residents in need.

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While the format might have been a bit different, the results were the same.

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“I still got chicken pimples,” Kahikina said, on air, about the experience seeing countless people stop by and donate shopping carts’ worth of food, not to mention ample amounts of cash. 

After raising the goods, the radio host went straight to work to host his weekday afternoon drive show, Pau Hana Party.

Kahikina challenged the crowd outside the store – the radio host can draw a crowd, after all – to raise 10,000 pounds worth of food and cash in two hours. If they didn’t, the officers on hand would put the radio show host in handcuffs.

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They ended up hitting the goal in two hours and five minutes.

“So they put one handcuff on me,” Kahikina said.

As the name suggests, the method behind the unique fundraising drive was to fill the police cruiser with goods, which was exactly what happened. The idea for the event was, in part, created with the help of Kona Community Policing Officer Dwayne Sluss, who saw the need for food supplies intensify during the pandemic.

In the end, Friday’s early tally came back about 4,000 pounds of food and $5,000 in cash. But people are still donating and official numbers won’t be known until after the weekend. Each dollar counts toward three pounds of food in the calculation. The unofficial counts already surpass last year’s inaugural effort.

“I don’t want to get choked up on the radio like Tommy did, but we got a kick-ass little town, we really do, ” Sluss said. “I’m really proud of Kona.”

The satisfaction of seeing people come together to help each other is an indescribably wonderful feeling, Kahikina said, adding he’s not exactly sure why the issue of feeding the hungry has been so close to his heart for so long. But it has. And the joy he experiences using his radio platform to help is unlike anything else. 

“It’s a positive power that can be used for good,” he said. “If I can help out, why wouldn’t I?”

The best part was – and always is – seeing the people who donate getting just as much joy from the experience as he is, Kahikina said.

“You can see it, you can really see it, they feel just as good as I do,” he said.

The timing of the drive was especially apropos. The Food Basket told Big Island Now this week in an article how low their food supplies are due to supply chain issues, and worker and crop shortages on the mainland.

Kahikina said he can’t wait until next year to do it all again, which is what Sluss said as well. The goal will be to beat this year’s total. Helping others and having fun doing it, is the name of the game, both men said.

“If we all share, we can do anything,” Kahikina said, before smiling. “I sound like a politician, don’t I?”

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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