There are more than 1.2 million people worldwide who collectively abide by the same motto: “Service Above Self.” Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members Karin Carlson, Judy Gray, Mark Harbison and Mike O’Dwyer are among them.

All four are members of the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea, one of nine Rotary clubs on Maui. Rotary is an international service organization composed of business and professional leaders who create positive, lasting change in communities around the world. Rotary International is credited with initiating the global effort to eradicate polio; it has helped immunize more than 2.5 billion children against polio in 122 countries, reducing polio cases by 99.9 percent worldwide.

Without question, Carlson, Gray, Harbison, O’Dwyer and their fellow Kihei-Wailea Rotarians have a zeal for community service. When it comes to Rotary Foundation global grants, “We are one of the most active clubs in our district,” Harbison explained. “Our most recent projects include a Rotary charity eye hospital in Delhi [India] with advanced technology for cataract surgery and glaucoma treatment, along with a volunteer training team global grant that sends doctors to Uganda to teach young surgeons at a teaching hospital in advanced pediatric orthopedic surgery. The doctors train student surgeons the latest procedures for club foot, bow legs, spinal deformities, cleft palate and many other conditions that are rarely seen in rich Western countries. We also participate in local projects with our sister clubs in Japan and the Philippines.”

On Maui, the club’s service projects include awarding tuition scholarships to college-bound students, holding food drives for the Maui Food Bank, and distributing dictionaries to third graders at Kihei Charter School and Kihei and Kamali‘i Elementary Schools. In 2017, the Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea raised funds to install lifesaving rescue tube stations at six South Maui beach parks. The club was granted permission by the county to purchase and install the rescue tubes—sentinel flotation equipment that can stabilize distressed swimmers before rescue—every 300 feet from Kalama Park to Keawakapu Beach.

But they didn’t stop there. Since then, club has installed rescue tube stations along the South Maui coastline and has partnered with the Rotary Clubs of Lahaina, Lahaina Sunset and Lahaina Sunrise to install stations along the West Maui coastline.

The need for these rescue tubes cannot be overstated. Rogue waves, rip tides and strong currents can appear out of nowhere—and occur more often than most realize. According to the state Department of Health, ocean drownings are the second leading cause of fatal injuries in Maui County and are responsible for more deaths than vehicular or motorcycle accidents. The tube stations are hard to miss: The banana-yellow cylindrical flotation devices are conspicuously placed at the high-water mark mauka (mountain-side) of the vegetation line. The rescue tubes are mounted on tall poles topped with a yellow flag; the poles are equipped with a GPS position locater so 911 dispatchers will know where to send emergency responders. The tubes, which are designed to keep three adults afloat, are outfitted with a 10-foot-long tether line at one end. In an emergency situation, bystanders can toss the tube into the water or—if they can safely do so—swim out with it so the distressed swimmer can hold on to it until emergency responders arrive.

You can help these Rotarians continue their good work. The Rotary Club of Kihei-Wailea will hold its annual fundraising dinner, “Kaina Kountry Rockin’ for Rotary” with emcee Kathy Collins at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 21. There will be dinner, a silent auction and live music by Kaina Kountry, a country music band that will get everyone on the dance floor. Proceeds from the event will benefit the club’s service projects, including the rescue tube project.

Gray encourages everyone to attend. “Maui residents should consider attending this event not only because it will be a fun-filled evening,” she said, “but participants will be also able to help support school children in our community and worldwide through the fight against polio.”

General admission tickets are $59 per person; VIP tickets, which include reserved indoor and outdoor seating, two bottles of wine and photobooth memorabilia, are $85 per person. To purchase tickets, visit www.mauirotary.org.

Photo credit: Stuart Karlan

The Maui News – March 16, 2020

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