After three decades, the Kihei Youth Center (KYC) continues to be a reliable extension of education, culture and care for the keiki of South Maui.
A diverse group of nearly 600 spirited and eager youth between the ages of 8 and 18 are registered members at the seaside locale, where they feel safe and enjoy just being kids.
Founded in 1983, KYC's mission continues to "strengthen the community through positive youth and family development by providing educational, recreational, vocational, cultural, social and prevention programs in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment embodied by Native Hawaiian values."
“Children first: today, tomorrow, forever.” Join one of the Kīhei Youth Center’s most dedicated advocates, Kimokeo Kapahulehua, for a special celebration on Friday, May 31, at the Moki Kalanikau KYC Lū‘au Fundraiser.
Photo: Mark Middleton
Now located adjacent to the Kenolio Recreational Complex, KYC was originally housed in the old Kihei School.
The eight angels that keep KYC up and running are Program Director Stephanie Kaplan, Administrative Assistant Siu Ako Sharitis, Akanete Afeaki, Folingi Hiliau, Alisha Harrold, "Coach" Bill Baldwin, Kara Tabilin and their devoted leader, Executive Director Lehuanani Huddlestone-Hafoka, fondly known as "Auntie Lehua."
Lehua, one of the first youth members when she was 13, has been with the center as staff for over a decade, and executive director for five years.
"I'm grateful and it's wonderful to be a part of the legacy here," she said. "It's quite the responsibility for parents to trust you, and it's great to provide a safe haven for their kids."
KYC relies on monies from the County of Maui, grants, fundraising and donations in order to succeed, but the nonprofit still faces daily challenges and needs help from the community.
South Maui will have the opportunity to help by joining one of its most dedicated advocates, cultural hero Kimokeo Kapahulehua, on Friday, May 31, at the Moki Kalanikau KYC Lu'au Fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. on the KYC grounds. There will be live entertainment, ono Hawaiian grinds and a silent auction--plus, attendees can enjoy the company of some great families and friends with one of the most beautiful ocean views on Maui as backdrop.
"Uncle Kimokeo is such a vital part of our foundation along with many other caring community members who helped bring KYC to fruition," said Lehua. "My staff is my family, and they are the best, but we could not do it alone."
Hawaiian treasure and KYC hero Uncle Kimokeo was one of the original KYC board members and a founding member of Kihei Canoe Club (KCC), a group that continues to be a part of the KYC 'ohana to this day.
As the honorary lu'au chair, Kimokeo felt it befitting to have the KYC event the evening before the Moki Kalanikau Regatta on Saturday, May 31, to honor Uncle Moki.
"Kimokeo believes in our services, and he knows how important they are, especially in a world now where many youth are so distracted or without positive role models, and not much concerned about their culture or family legacy," said Lehua.
One of Lehua and 'ohana's main goals is to instill the value of kahiau, which she translated as "to give generously from the heart without expectations of any return." She even named her first daughter this lovely Hawaiian term.
"This place is a family and everyone is so nice, and I feel very lucky to be a part of the goodness going on here," said Tabilin, a bright young woman who came to be staff at KYC after majoring in early childhood development at the University of Hawai'i Maui College. "It's hard work, but very rewarding. It's amazing, though, when you earn the trust and respect of the kids."
The KYC angels also extend their wings into community with county programs, volunteer trips and by hosting corporate visitor events. During a recent Maui Food Bank drive, volunteers raised $750 and 440 pounds of food.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for kids 11 and over; all keiki under 10 are admitted at no charge to this alcohol- and smoke-free event.
Reach Lehua and Steph at 879-8698 to buy presale tickets, donate money or items, or to volunteer. Every donation makes a difference.
Whether it's money, useful supplies, a professional service or just a little of your time, KYC appreciates your kokua.
Support an essential community hub at its home in North Kihei at 131 S. Kihei Road, across from the Kihei Canoe Club (KCC) beach.