LAHAINA - When the Lahainaluna High School football team captured their first Division II State Football Championship this past Nov. 18, it was the culmination of years of work made possible through the support of a community that never stopped believing.
Just ask Kaanapali Land Management Corp.'s Lanny Tihada, who couldn't be prouder of the team and the young people who have gone through this football program through the years.
"Lahainaluna's football program has come a long way," said Tihada, a former Lahainaluna football coach. "In the '70s, we were just trying to survive by making a team. When we decided we wanted a 'real' football program, not just a team, we were overwhelmed by the support we received from schools on Oahu, Lahainaluna's football `ohana, and numerous community stakeholders. Today, this program is what it is because of everyone's support."
The Lunas celebrate at Aloha Stadium on Nov. 18 after claiming the state Division II football championship over Kapaa, 21-14. PHOTO COURTESY OF GLEN PASCUAL.
Part of this support comes from Friends of Lahainaluna Football Inc. Now celebrating their tenth anniversary, this nonprofit organization helps to raise funds for the school's football program. They also support the Big Boys Football League Maui, which prepares athletes in intermediate school to compete at Lahainaluna. Coach Bobby Watson serves as president, Lanny and his son Garret Tihada are VPs, and Kathleen Giambalvo is secretary/treasurer.
There are a lot of costs involved in sustaining a high-caliber football program. Because of the community's continuous support of the Friends' fundraising efforts, which include their annual golf tournament and Times Supermarkets' Chicken Sale, this nonprofit is able to provide football equipment, out-of-state travel, and scholarships for graduating senior players going on to college.
In another show of support, a group of parents and the community pulled together to purchase rings for the Lahainaluna team members to commemorate their accomplishment of winning the Division II State Championship. The rings were the community's way of recognizing the hard work that these young men put in.
According to Garret Tihada, "Football is sort of a metaphor for life. This game asks young men to push themselves further than they ever thought they could go. It challenges them physically, teaches them discipline, and builds character. But perhaps most importantly, it makes them realize that they are stronger as a team and that they are part of something bigger than themselves. They are Lunas."
To make a donation to the Friends of Lahainaluna Football, please make your check payable to "Friends of Lahainaluna Football" and mail to: P.O. Box 10486, Lahaina, HI 96761. For more information, contact Lanny Tihada at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kathleen at email@example.com.