Categorized | Featured, Volunteering

Day 4 & 5: Lovato just keeps on truckin’

Angelina Lovato finishes up Day 4 near the entrance of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (Photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

Angelina Lovato has been here before. Her mission, however, is to let Big Island special needs children experience things they never have.

Lovato, a 58-year-old Konawaena Elementary School reading tutor, is walking 240 miles around the Big Island for the second time raising money so special needs students have more opportunities.

“What keeps me going is those kids,” she said after wrapping up Sunday’s 20-mile trek near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. “There are sacrifices they make, that their parents make everyday. This is the least I could do.”

The least she can do is push through walnut-sized blisters, wind, rain, searing heat and hugs from people she meets along the way.

Angelina Lovato and her line of sneakers. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

“I’ve met a lot of people. It’s amazing,” she said. “One little boy came out and asked ‘Auntie, are you walking around the world?”

While it’s not quite around the world, Lovato sure has moments when it feels like it.

For the last five miles Sunday she was walking into a headwind and she wasn’t sure she was getting anywhere.

“Whew, I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she said, leaning against mile market 31. “Tough day.”

The walk is broken into 20-mile segments to allow Lovato’s feet to rest overnight.

“I’m having a little trouble with blisters on my left foot, but that’s to be expected,” she said. “I’m a walker anyway and I’m in better shape than I was last year.”

After a massage, dinner and a good night’s sleep, she was back on the road at dawn Monday to face a chilly, windy walk. She was finished by 1 p.m. Monday, although she still is battling blisters.

The beginning

Since first working with special needs children during the summer of 2008, Lovato said she has enormous respect for their struggles.

“These kids are like this through no choice of their own,” she said.

Raising money to sponsor them in extra-curricular activities seemed like a good idea. Inspiration came from the kids and Lovato is giving it back to them.

Randy and Angelina Lovato (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

“When I first announced that I was going to walk around the island, I don’t think anyone believed I was going to do it,” she said.

“There is definitely a need,” she said, and the community has resources such as horseback riding, art classes and music lessons.

Last year, Lovato raised $9,300. Enough to allow 15 students from the Kona area with such disabilities as cerebral palsy to have access to these therapeutic activities.

This year’s goal is $15,000 and Lovato already is more than one-third there.

“We’ve had people come running up to the van and literally empty their pockets of change,” husband Randy Lovato said. “Everyone wins – the kids, the teachers, the families, the community. If people are thinking twice about donating, they need to know the smiles they can put on kids’ faces is worth millions.”

All the money raised directly benefits the children, Lovato said, through her nonprofit group Special Needs Kids of Hawaii, which is sponsored by Apono Hawaii.

“It’s such an isolated community, but the parents are so caring,” Lovato said. “They wonder and worry about their children. It really makes you more sensitive to the things these families go through every day. It’s a whole other world and we need to be more sensitive to them.”

The long-term goal is at least $150,000 for a permanent facility to serve local special needs adults – likely some of the same individuals Lovato now teaches at Konawaena.

Mile Marker 31 (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Support along the way

The Lovatos know this year they didn’t need to bring along lawn chairs and canned food. Their host families are taking extra-special care of them.

“I couldn’t do it without all the support,” she said. “Everyone has been amazing, very supportive.”

From the bed-and-breakfast accommodations to special shoes to radio DJs offering to collect checks, the community has jumped on board for the second annual Angelina’s Charity Walk.

Her biggest supporter, however, is husband, Randy, a county Planning Department zoning inspector who is using his vacation time to help his wife complete her mission.

“It’s my job to take care of her,” he said. “After 30 years of marriage, we make a pretty good team.”

He creeps along in a van behind her, hazard lights flashing and water bottle and bandages at the ready.

At the last moment, he speeds ahead to snaps photos as she reaches today’s finish line. Then he helps her into the van and whisks her off to a hot shower and a late lunch.

This year’s sponsors include: Apono Hawaii, Hawaiian Pedals/John Storlie, Therapeutic Horsemanship of Hawaii, Kona Program at Horseplay Equestrian Center, Makahiki Farms/Jonathan & Nancy Sechrist, Cody King, Pahala Plantation Cottages/Julia Neal, Alvin’s Signs, Hawaiian Orthotics Prosthetics Enterprises (H.O.P.E.), Bianca’s Stichez/ Bianca Marti, Makua Coffee/Stacy Rand, Pacific Nature/Lisa Maruoka at Queen’s Marketplace.

The Lovatos also thank Larry Ford, Dr. Bob Laird, Cleg Holiman, the Polotu Ohana, Deborah Howard, Julia Neal, Suzanne Woolley, the Nakao Ohana, the Politano Ohana, Stacy Rand, Lester & Lisa Maruoka, Bobby Dean Hardy & Mandy McClain, John Storlie and Bert & Joanne Wong.

The journey

Lovato started at Konawaena Elementary, heading south along Highway 11 and wrapping around South Point, though Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and into Keaau, where the journey turns north through Hilo.

Lovato will meander through the gulches north of Hilo and trek through Hamakua and Waimea to Waikoloa Road, which leads her down to the Kohala Coast and onto Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

The highway will take her into Kona and back up to the finish at Konawaena Elementary School. She expects to arrive at the campus about noon Monday, June 7.

That’s a long way, but Lovato is not daunted.

“I keep thinking this weekend of all the people who have made sacrifices,” she said. “All I’m doing is putting one foot in front of the other.”

Tax-deductible donations may be made to:
Special Needs Kids Hawaii Island
81-943 Makahiki Lane
Captain Cook, HI 96704

— Find out more:
www.specialneedskidshawaii.org

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

The kick off at Konawaena Elementary School. (Hawaii 24/7 photo special by Margaret Masunaga)

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