Keaau Athlete, Maka’ala Lum Ho, Remembered
KEAAU – “A mile to remember,” is how Greg Lum Ho explains it.
Lum Ho and over 200 people, some teary eyed, came out on Friday to remember by walking or jogging a mile distance in honor of Maka’ala Lum Ho a Keaau High School 16 year old whose life was abruptly ended on June 6, 2011 in an ocean kayak accident.
“Our run/walk was totally informal today,” Maka’ala’s dad Greg said. “That’s how Maka would have wanted it to be, so there will be no results, just a time for all of us to reflect on a person that everyone was glad to have as a friend.”
The Lum Ho family attended with mother Imelda and younger brother Kahaku both doing the walk.
“I couldn’t believe when we were told Maka had died,” Kahaku said. “It wasn’t till we went to the hospital and I saw his body that it hit me, but I tried to be brave and didn’t cry.”
It’s been hard on the Lum Ho family and 9th grader Kahaku is finding it difficult to even talk about the passing of his older brother.
“It wasn’t until some friends started talking about Maka that I broke down and cried,” a teary eyed Kahaku said. “As the days go by it gets better but I think about him every day.”
The Maka Mile was also a fundraiser for the Cougar cross country team to help defray part of their travel cost to the state championships at the end of October.
The tee shirts that were given out to the participants read “MakaFulu” which the dad had written to include his son’s name along with his best friend’s name, SeFulu Faavae, a Waiakea basketball player.
“I knew Maka since 7th grade,” Faavae said. “We played together in the Parks and Recreation league and we would talk stories about lots of different things.
“Maka had a way of making people smile and he always knew what to say,” she said.
Maka’ala, which translates into vigilant or watchful, according to the dad, it also means Gregory.
“Maka’s grandfather and I are named Gregory and we wanted to give him the Hawaiian version of the name,” Lum Ho said.
Maka’s mile started and ended on the schools track and weaved its way around the campus; pass the tennis courts and the gymnasium.
The course was designed to pass by the three areas in which Maka’ala lettered in sports for the Cougars: cross country, tennis and basketball.
“Yes, Maka played tennis,” Lum Ho said with a partial grin.
Lum Ho came up with the concept of remembering his son with a mile run/walk through his deployment to Afghanistan.
“When I was deployed with the 10th Mountain Division we did an annual Mogadishu Mile in honor of the events detailed in Black Hawk Down,” Lum Ho said. “It is a way for people to remember and this is a way for people to remember Maka’ala in their own way.”
Lum Ho, who is the assistant cross country coach, recalled his son’s love for sports.
“If Maka could run just one mile, he would,” Lum Ho said. “The distance is something most people can do either by running or by walking and it is not intimidating to those not used to working out.”
While contemplating how he should design the course, Lum Ho took the advice of Cougar head cross country coach, Donna Wong Yuen.
“Donna told me to let Maka’ala guide me in figuring out how to lay out the mile course,” Lum Ho said. “The route was actually presented to me by Maka’ala as I let him guide my heart.”
“Maka was funny and charismatic,” Coach Wong Yuen said. “A very talented and gifted athletic that enjoyed talking story more than he did practicing cross country. That’s why a mile would be something he would be willing to do, quite easily.”
Although the event wasn’t meant to be competitive some high school cross country runners turned it into a race with Waiakea’s Jackson Halford edging out St. Joseph’s Andrew Langtry in a time of 5 minutes 48 seconds.
“I didn’t know Maka personally,” Halford said after the mile run, “but thought I’d come out here and honor another fellow runner.”
The first female across the finish line was a Cougar cross country teammate of Maka, Deann Nishimura-Thornton, in 7:40.
“One mile sounds like Maka,” Nishimura-Thornton said. “He ran cross country to help him get into shape for basketball and it did help him become a very good player.”
According to Nishimura-Thornton it was Maka’ala’s dream to someday play college ball at North Carolina.
“Maka had a real passion for basketball and it showed when he played,” Nishimura-Thornton said. “He had a great attitude and always had positive things to say in encouraging his teammates.”
Prior to the event Lum Ho, who is a Staff Sergeant in the Army Reserves, addressed the large crowd with a tearful description of his son.
“I’ve never been known as a person who liked titles,” he said. “But the greatest title that I ever had in the world was being known as Maka’ala’s dad.”