Hometown Heroes: Big Island fire captain among this year’s Champions for Children

  • Christian Wong of Honokaa is among this year’s Champions for Children. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christian Wong, a Honoka‘a fire captain and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education advocate, is among this year’s Champions for Children.

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For its annual Champions for Children awards April 7, Hawaii Children’s Action Network is honoring community members who went above and beyond for keiki during the COVID-19 pandemic. They include educators, social service providers, health advocates and other leaders from throughout the state.

Wong, a longtime proponent of STEM education, launched Hawaii STEM Community Care, which has provided personal protective equipment, trained contact tracers and empowered youth during the pandemic.

“It’s been a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and amid the unprecedented challenges we’ve faced, it’s inspiring to see how Champions for Children like Christian have made an impact,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawaii Children’s Action Network. “All 17 honorees are representative of the extraordinary dedication to children and families across the state. We’re excited to share their stories in the coming days.”

HCAN received nearly 90 public nominations, and a panel of community experts selected the honorees.

For three awards — Innovator, Family-Friendly Employer and Unsung Hero — the judges picked three finalists, and the winners will be revealed live during the ceremony.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green will deliver a keynote speech during the virtual Champions for Children event, which will start at 6 p.m. April 7. Registration is free, with a $25 suggested donation. The public is invited to sign up at https://champions.hawaii-can.org.

The 2021 Champions for Children honorees are:

Innovator: ChristianWong, Hawaii STEM Community Care; David Miyashiro, HawaiiKidsCAN; Punahele Provisions.

Family Friendly Employer: ADM Architecture + Interiors; ‘Iolani School; Wesley Children’s Programs.

Unsung Hero: Cristina and Devin Pagaduan, Pastele House Maui; Elisapeta Tu‘upo-Alaimaleata, Le Fetuao Samoan Language School; Susan Rocco, Special Parent Information Network.

Health Worker/Advocate: Kalakaua Middle School custodian team.

Public Health: Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services.

Family Strengthening: YMCA of Honolulu.

Economic Security/Social Services: Carla Houser, RYSE.

Early Learning (Individual): Debbi Amaral, Maui Economic Opportunity Head Start.

K-12 Teacher: Karl Higa,Noelani Elementary School.

K-12 Admin: Malaea Wetzel, Hale‘iwa Elementary School.

HCAN is a nonprofit creating a unified voice for Hawaii’s children. Its grassroots movement strives to ensure that all keiki are safe, healthy and ready to learn.

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For more information, visit www.hawaii-can.org.

Know a Hometown Hero that should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.

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