Fundraiser by Ohana Martial Arts puts on performances, ‘TED Talks for teens’

  • Tara Brown at Ohana Martial Arts has created "Empowered: An Evening for Tweens and Teens" on Saturday to benefit her Teen Empower program. (Elizabeth Pitts/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — As director at Ohana Martial Arts, Tara Brown is able to interact with the children and teenagers in Kona on a daily basis and get a closeup look into their lives and struggles.

Her insight into the needs of the community’s younger generation is what led her to create the Teen Empower program, which is holding its first fundraising event at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Shorebreak Church theater.

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“Empowered: An Evening for Tweens and Teens” features performances from West Hawaii Dance Theatre, Big Island Music Academy, Ohana Martial Arts and other nonprofit programs in the Kona area. Along with the show is what Brown calls a “TED Talk for teens.” Community leaders from teen programs and schools will speak about their life experiences and how to become an empowered adult.

“My passion is to empower young men and women to live to their fullest,” Brown said.

Brown created the Teen Empower program last year when she saw a need for teenagers in the community to have a place to learn self-defense maneuvers and skills. When the program started, it was for girls only, but expanded this year to have a class aimed at young boys as well.

“Our program is very different then the other teenage programs in town,” Brown said. “I feel like talent is a big piece of being able to dance and sing, and here I want to pull in the girls who are looking for a place to have a community. I want to reach the gals that need a place to feel strong and empowered.”

One of the speakers at the event is Amanda Trusty, the artistic director at Kona Dance and Performing Arts, who will focus on how to set goals and achieve them. Trusty’s enthusiasm to participate in the event stems from wanting to reach teenagers who aren’t just in one of her dance classes.

“Our teen pregnancy rate and teen drug use rate in this town is extremely high, and I think a lot of that has to do with the lack of activities available for teens,” Trusty said. “And there’s a lot of poverty in this community, and not all parents can get their kids to a dance class or an art class.”

A safe space for teenagers to connect with adults and hang out with their friends what all the nonprofits involved in the event want to create. West Hawaii Dance Theatre, led by artistic director Virginia Holte, will be performing dances from their past shows such as “Cinderella” as well as one from their upcoming production of “Swan Lake.” She hopes collaborative efforts between Kona’s nonprofit organizations continue in the future.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for all the organizations to get together, because we’re all basically doing the same thing, we’re mentoring children, we’re mentoring teens,” Holte said. “I think it’s great that we’re supporting each other and also just to show the teens that there’s a lot of things out there that they can go to to help them.”

A silent auction to benefit Teen Empower will be open during the performances, and door prizes for the teenagers in attendance will be handed out.

Although Teen Empower is still in its early stages, Brown has big dreams for the program.

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“I would love for our Empower program to every year have 30 or 40 young men and women that are needing a place to find their voice.”

Info: Tickets are $13 online and $15 at the door, and can be purchased at ohanamartialarts.org/empower. A full list of auction items available is also listed on the website.