LAHAINA - Lorene Akiona is a woman dedicated to the welfare of the children of our community.
She was a founder of the Project Graduation program here on Maui that continues to serve high schoolers and their families with a safe way to celebrate graduation night, and thus put an end to the tragic accidents that clouded this otherwise joyful day.
Shortly thereafter, Akiona became a single mom to her children, Mikey and Audrey, and her attention understandably shifted to the nurturing her offspring.
Working full-time as the recreation director at Napili Kai Beach Club, she has still managed to raise two children of fine character, with Mikey now attending college on Oahu working toward an EMT career, and Audrey now a freshman at Lahainaluna High School.
Involved as she always has been, Lorene has immersed herself into helping Audrey in her love of softball.
Nine years ago, Momma Lorene joined the board of directors of the Lahaina Youth Fast Pitch Softball organization, and today she has taken the helm of the program as president.
"As usual in Lahaina, it has been a team effort in keeping this program going," she said last week from Ainakea Park, where games and practices are held.
"The staff of Denton Johnson, Pam Kaniho, Lepua Wright, Rose Hodgins, Mamo Hussey, Kim Williams and Pamela Hamakua have been so supportive of me, and Dennis and Michelle Harmon, who ran the program before, left everything perfectly organized for me to take over."
For the 2012 season that began in mid-March and continues through the end of June, there are 75 girls ages six to 16 participating in the program.
The youngsters are divided into six teams that will play between seven and 17 games with the 10 and Under, 12U and 14U teams slated to go to the state tournament in June, following the Maui Girls Softball Association season.
Lahaina Girls Softball will also host the Lahaina Invitational tournament in August, with teams from all over Hawaii taking part.
"Softball has become a competitive sport," Lorene explained. "Of course it's for fun and recreation, but it is also more serious now, and there is a need to practice more to be competitive. It is officially competitive now. We've had Lei Nakamura - from the high school team and the commissioner of MGSA - come down and do clinics for us, as well as Earle Kukahiko for scorekeeping and Dennis Dole for an umpires' clinic.
"Most important is the community support we get, and especially to all the coaches, including Corrine Nobriga, Denton Hong, Ilima Hong, Mamo Hussey, Aloha Kaniho and all of their assistants. We are very grateful for your dedication to the program. We're trying to get the families more involved, to understand the game more, and things are really going well. It's like a mini-business, and I'm thankful to people like Dennis and Michelle (Harmon), who organized the program so well for me to step into it."
In being a mini-business, finance issues always arise, and Lahaina Girls Softball is no exception. Akiona reported that local business Williams and Associates has donated a laptop computer to the organization.
There will be a fundraising breakfast at Leilani's on the Beach on April 28 and a sweetbread sale through May 5. For more information, call 385-8548.