In September and October 2014, the newly-chartered Hawaii chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) when it hosted four Out of the Darkness walks to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention, and Grand Pacific Resorts provided invaluable support every step of the way.
“I knew Grand Pacific Resorts supported worthwhile causes at the community level,” explains Shirley Kaminsky, an owner at Makai Club Resort who lost her teenage son David to suicide in 1987 and has been active in the AFSP since 2002. “When I found out there would be a walk on Kauai I asked if the company would be willing to provide a sponsorship. When Nigel Lobo sent back the sponsorship packet, he had bumped up the amount to sponsor all four walks. I actually cried when I got his email.”
For the first time this year, AFSP-Hawaii held community walks on The Big Island, Maui, and Kauai. Grand Pacific Resorts was the main corporate sponsor for the events. According to Eric Tash, the chapter chair, “The sponsorship helped kickstart our walks. We were able to enlist the county to put a spotlight on suicide and lay the groundwork for next year.” Grand Pacific Resorts also joined forces with companies such as Walmart and Outback Steakhouse to support the second annual walk on Oahu.
In addition, Shirley, her husband, and five associates from Grand Pacific Resorts participated in the Kauai walk on September 27, 2014, raising more support than any other team on the island and more than two times their team goal. The momentum is growing at Grand Pacific Resorts. Associates at our headquarters in Carlsbad, California, are participating in the Out of Darkness walk in the Coachella Valley on March 7, 2015.
AFSP-Hawaii received its charter in July 2014 and meets a critical need in Hawaiian Islands. “Suicide prevention is possible,” says Pua Kaninau-Santos, a community liaison for AFSP-Hawaii. “The AFSP’s national goal is to reduce suicide 20 percent by 2025, and we’re doing our part by educating the community and about how to identify and help someone who is at risk of taking their life.” The AFSP also funds research, influences public policy, and provides support for survivors of suicide loss at both a national and state level.
Pua lost her teenage son Kaniela to suicide in 2003. That year, suicide was the third leading cause of death among youth in Hawaii, and the state’s young people continue to have high rates of suicidal ideation per the 2009 Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System. Pua and Eric are hesitant to speculate on what is behind these statistics, but schools are a major focus for their new organization as they develop the next generation of leaders in suicide awareness and prevention.
“Depression, mental illness, and suicide are a major public health problem,” says Shirley. “We have to start looking at depression, bipolar disorder, and all of the mental illnesses as diseases, which they are. They’re diseases of the brain. One of the missions of the AFSP is to reduce stigma, provide education about suicide and mental illness, and make it easier to talk about. Grand Pacific Resorts is helping to increase the momentum of that movement.”
The Out of the Darkness walks reflect a larger commitment to give back to the destinations we serve. In September, Grand Pacific Resorts sponsored the 30th Annual Kauai Mokihana Festival, an event that celebrates native Hawaiian culture through music, dance, and art.