The Scene: Thinking outside the box, group pulls no punches in fight against Parkinson’s

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Herb Kiyabu boxes with wife June earlier this season during Rock Steady Boxing at Waiakea Recreation Center Boxing Gym in Hilo.

Herb Kiyabu’s immediate response was one of understanding and acceptance when he heard about a new way to help him find a measure of relief in his fight with Parkinson’s disease.

The concept of older people with a serious degenerative disorder taking up boxing may not strike everyone as a good idea, but Kibayu, who had struggled with it since 2017, liked it right away.


He was always active in sports, playing at the varsity level at Honolulu’s Maryknoll School — Class of ’56 — in both baseball and basketball. He spent 40 years in Los Angeles as a systems analyst for the region’s freeways, then regularly bowled in Hilo until the bowling center closed down.

Since November, Kiyabu has been an active regular in the Rock Steady Boxing Class at Waiakea Recreation Center, featured in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in February, but the class, which has grown to 15-20 each session, will be graced by celebrity Friday.

At 8:30 a.m., there will be a lei greeting for Jon Pawelkop, who popularized the whole concept of Rock Steady Boxing for those battling Parkinson’s disease, and has since taken the exposure to a new level by traveling to all 50 states, spreading the word. Just a week ago he was in Kyoto, Japan at the World Parkinson’s Conference where he had opportunities to spread the message to key individuals globally.

On the way back to the mainland, Pawelkop decided to make Hawaii the 49th state he’s visited with his appearance at the Waiakea Rec Center. Alaska will have to wait.

“When I first heard about it,” Kiyabu said of Rock Steady, “it didn’t strike me as odd at all, I just thought about training and exercise, it made sense.”

Kiyabu is one of the nearly two dozen Hilo-area residents who makes the twice weekly (Monday and Friday, 8:30 a.m. each day), programs at Waiakea Rec, a number he hopes will grow with the recent publicity.

“It has helped me,” he said, “and I can see how it has helped others. You just have to get involved to make a difference.”

Good obstacles

The older we get, the more we tend to understand and avoid the presence of obstacles in our lives.

We get to know certain patterns, we recoil at the thought of renewing the driver’s license, thinking of the lines that are often waiting for us, an obstacle to getting our business done. Life becomes a kind of slalom course, swimming around obstacles here and there, but we usually forget the time when obstacles were fun.

Those were the obstacles we enjoyed, even went in search of to bring some adventure and joy into our lives. We were younger then, we laughed at obstacles, we couldn’t wait to over come them.

Something about that was at work when Lance and Mary Jane Tominaga, who run Sunrise Athletics, came up with the idea of the inaugural Run for Fun Obstacle Race that will occur June 23 at 4 p.m. at the Bayfront soccer fields.

The Tominagas work with young cross-country runners in Sunrise Athletics as well as assisting Big Island Road Runners in their events, generally geared to older youth.

They are always looking for new ways to get keiki interested in participatory events outside, away from the laptops, cellphones and iPads that increasingly seem to absorb more and more time for young people.

“This is going to be fun,” Lance said, “it’s geared to the younger group, starting with 8-and-under, but we can go up into the teens, we won’t be turning kids away.”

Proceeds will go to benefit the Big Island Road Runners Scholarship fund, and the local school that signs up the most participants will get a $200 bonus to help address defraying the cost of school supplies, plus another local school will be awarded $200 for similar needs.

“We’re hoping to get a variety of kids out for this,” Lance said, “and to be honest, we’d really like to see some who come out that maybe don’t think of themselves as athletes.

“This is about fun, there will be a tunnel crawl, ropes to climb, all the stuff we used to as kids for fun. We are hopeful of getting keiki out of the house and opening up ideas for them about exercise, whether it’s climbing, running, whatever, mostly, we want them to go out and have some fun.”

The concept came from helping out Waiakea Key Club the last couple of years on Kiwanis day, which included an obstacle course. That group has altered plans organizationally, leaving the June date open.

The hope is that the Run for Fun Obstacle race will be an annual event with courses of 1, 1.5 and 2-miles in the challenge.

“Maybe we’ll have a couple kids get out and find something they really enjoy that might encourage them to try more,” Lance said. “If we give them the outlet, and they take it from there to do more, then it’s all going to be a success.”

For further information, call Lance (937-4415), or Mary Jane (937-1762) Tominaga.

Still on top

The reigning champions are still reigning, but if wins and losses mean anything, the grip that Hilo Pomaikai has on Kupuna softball on the Big Island may be loosening just a wee bit.

A year ago, Pomaikai breezed through the first half undefeated, lost just once in the second half of the season and then held off Kona Gold, the closest pursuers, 16-14 in the county championship.

It’s crunch time now for senior softball on the Big Island, with 25 days left until the county championships are contested in Hilo, and heading into the weekend, the same two are the top of the standings, Pomaikai with a 26-2 record, Kona Gold dancing at the heels at 24-4. But in the first half, Gold was the perfect team, winning all 20 outings while Hilo Pomaikai was 21-1.

Combine the two halves and you get Hilo Pomaiki is 47-3, Kona Gold 44-4, which feels like a paper thin difference between the two powerhouse teams on the Big Island.


They are headed for a championship collision, once again.

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