KAILUA-KONA — Already, 2018 is shaping up to be a remarkable — possibly symbolic — year for the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation.
Symbolic because the foundation dedicated to raising money for ocean safety and emergency responders is now in the process of replacing equipment it first purchased 20 years ago, a sign of long-term success if there ever was one — but more on that later.
In the meantime, it has kicked 2018 off red-hot.
Two weeks ago, the foundation gave five paddleboards for ocean safety responders. On Sunday they backed that up by donating two ATVs to the Hawaii Fire Department.
“It’s a godsend to us,” said Hawaii Fire Battalion Chief Gerald Kosaki, who accepted two ATVs Sunday morning at the Kaiser Permanente building in Kailua-Kona, rescue rigs that will be stationed at Hapuna Beach in North Kohala and Isaac Hale Beach in Puna.
Because they’re the most efficient vehicle that can traverse sand when lifeguards are moving in a sprint from the beach to the water, where most rescues are needed.
The difference between running while carrying boards, defibrillators and other equipment to get to a Jet Ski at water’s edge versus driving a powerful rig already loaded with the rescue gear is time that can prove to be life-changing. A brain without oxygen can last 4 to 6 minutes before it suffers damage, so when driving shaves 3 minutes off running, it means those in distress have that much better of a chance.
“Minutes or seconds can make a difference if a person lives or dies,” Kosaki said.
The donation came in the form of a grant from a private, family-based nonprofit that focuses on humanitarian issues but wished to remain anonymous for this story.
The nonprofit is stationed on the mainland but has donated to the Sayre Foundation before. It learned of the need for the ATVs at the Sayre Foundation’s annual fundraising dinner and auction in September. The two vehicles cost about $11,000 each, so the foundation asked Laura Mallery-Sayre to write up a grant request proposal, which Mallery-Sayre did. In return, she received a $50,000 check, which was enough to purchase the vehicles with more than a litte something left over.
“With tears in my eyes, I said, ‘Thank you,’” Mallery-Sayre said.
The money raised in 2017 by the foundation proved to be its record thus far. It netted around $700,000, which more than doubled the $276,000 raised the year prior. Mallery-Sayre joked that a Hilo official recently called the foundation a “20-year, overnight success.”
“I had to laugh at that,” she said, adding that other islands are reaching out to ask for assistance. “It took us 20 years to get to this point.”
More donations are in store. Long-range lifeguard communication systems are slated for 2018 as is a top-of-the-line, $314,000 fire truck being built in Maine right now that can traverse lava rock to douse brush fires. That will be gifted to the Waimea Fire Department this fall.
The Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation was created by Mallery-Sayre and her husband, Frank Sayre, after the death of their son, Danny, in 1997.
The 25-year-old died during a hiking trip to the back of Pololu Valley near Kapaloa Falls. Fire crews spent close to 10 hours trying recover Danny, who fell 500 feet to the valley floor.
Their dogged rescue effort prompted the Sayres to give back, and that they have. Now, 20 years later, they’re still at it, stronger than ever.
Another thing, among many, on the foundation’s purchase list in the coming months is new scuba gear for rescue divers. That equipment was its first purchase and, two decades later after much use, it’s in need of replacing.
A beautiful but unfortunate problem to have — beautiful because it’s proof the foundation’s efforts are working but unfortunate because it will always be needed.
Still, looking back at that original donation that seemed so expensive, if not daunting, at the time because it cost a few thousand dollars is a symbol of the island working together.
“I would have been in shock,” Mallery-Sayre said if someone told her that 20 years ago they’d be taking in and distributing $700,000 in any given year. “Our community is making a difference to save lives.”
“Collective energy,” she added, “has positive outcomes.”