WAIMEA — In times of crisis, rescue crews with the Hawaii Fire Department step up and give their all to save lives.
For more than two decades, the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation has stood behind the island’s heroes as a crucial partner, making sure emergency responders have the tools, training and equipment they need to do the job.
This year alone, the foundation donated ATVs and rescue boards as well as funds for the purchase of a PA system at Hapuna beach.
And on Friday, that critical work continued with a donation of two Jaws of Life sets — each including a spreader, cutter and ram — to better equip the island’s rescue teams to save lives.
For Laura Mallery-Sayre, who started the foundation with her husband, Frank Sayre, it’s about those on the front lines.
“People say all the time, ‘Thank you’ to us — Frank and I — but we’re not the foundation; the community is the foundation. You’re the foundation,” Mallery-Sayre told a group of Hawaii County firefighters on Friday at the Waimea Fire Station. “It’s people’s love for all of you, for what you do on a daily basis.”
The Sayres started the foundation after the death of their son, Danny, in 1997. He died during a hiking trip in Pololu Valley near Kapoloa Falls. The couple started the foundation in Danny’s memory, dedicating its mission to cultivating community support for rescue crews.
“I feel so grateful when Laura tells me that there’s going to be a gifting or they’re going to do something,” said Hawaii County Councilwoman Karen Eoff. “Because it just seems like it’s a part of our community that we need to recognize.”
The Jaws of Life equipment is powered by battery, which cuts out the need to transport a gas motor, hydraulic pump and hoses to the scene of a rescue, cutting minutes off the response time when seconds are what count.
“It is a huge increase in capability and speed and safety,” said Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Kazuo Todd.
Altogether, the two sets — one for the Waimea station and one for the Waikoloa Fire Station — cost close to $64,000. That’s eight times the annual new equipment budget.
“Everything costs more than we have, and the budgets keep getting smaller and smaller, so it’s harder and harder,” Todd said. “Which is why the Sayre foundation is such a key element in our ability to provide the best possible service to the public that we can.”
Funding for the equipment was made possible through a $100,000 donation to the Sayre foundation from a local family foundation that requested anonymity.
During Friday’s presentation, the Sayres acknowledged the crucial role donors have in furthering their foundation’s mission and supporting the Fire Department.
“These people live among us,” Sayre said. “And they care.”
But the Sayre foundation isn’t stopping to rest. Given the Kilauea eruption in lower Puna and recent brush fires, Mallery-Sayre said the community’s support of rescue crews is needed now more than ever.
“We need help … to provide additional revenue for the equipment and the training that they need that they have no funds for,” she said. “And if we’ve ever made a plea, this would be the year we’re going to make the biggest plea.”
On Saturday, Sept. 1, the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation will continue its mission to assist rescue crews help the community at the 21st annual awards dinner and fundraiser at The Fairmont Orchid in Waikoloa.
During the event, the foundation will honor Fire Department personnel who contributed to four separate incidents around the island.
One such honor will bestowed to those who risked their lives in the search for and recovery of Kelly Mrowinski, a traveling nurse who was swept away by a January flash flood in the Wailuku River. Mrowinski’s body was recovered weeks later, with rescue crews working amid heavy rains and precarious river conditions.
While unable to save the woman’s life, the citation for the award states that crews “took great risk to their personal safety to accomplish this mission,” give her family closure “and rescue them from a lifetime of unanswered questions and continued grief.”
That commendation honors more than two dozen members of the rescue teams involved, including battalion chiefs, captains, equipment operators, rescue specialists and firefighters, with an additional acknowledgment to three helicopter pilots.
Sharing that story again on Friday, Mallery-Sayre noted the comfort and support Mrowinski’s family received from the community and rescue personnel.
It made such an impression, Mallery-Sayre added, that the family raised more than $7,000 for the Fire Department.
“In all of that tragedy, you captured the mom and dad’s heart because of what you did,” she said.
“And I know it’s hard when you guys go out and do this stuff every day. It has to be hard on you personally,” she added. “But you do it with such professionalism and such compassion, and we are just so lucky to have you. We really are.”
Registration for the annual Sayre foundation dinner closes Aug. 29. The event’s website though notes the event typically sells out, so those interested in attending are encouraged to book early.
Details and information about how to register are available at www.danielsayrefoundation.org.
Tickets are $114; children younger than 12 years old are $58.
Tables of 10 also are available for $1,140 and a VIP table of 10 with wine service costs $1,343.
Email Cameron Miculka at email@example.com.