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Garden Party benefits Fukushima Kids Hawaii Project

One Japanese mother’s concern about children affected by radiation from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe was the impetus for an organization dedicated to helping mothers and children.

Yumi Kikuchi and her husband, Gen Morita, founded the Fukushima Kids Hawaii Project. The couple moved their family to Kona from Japan in May 2011 for the safety and health of their two small children.

“We need to get as much kids out of radiation as possible,” Kikuchi, a classical flutist, said. “As a mother, I’m concerned about the kids.”

Since moving to Kona, Yumi cofounded “Fukushima Kids Hawaii” to invite children from Fukushima to Hawaii for a healthy respite from the radiation they were exposed to after the triple meltdown of nuclear reactors of Fukushima Daiichi.

Because children are more susceptible to radiation, Fukushima Kids Hawaii Project is designed especially to aid mothers with babies and young children to promote rejuvenation with a more long-term stay in Hawaii.

Kikuchi will be among the many musicians entertaining in the Garden Party benefit 3-8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at Nani Mau Gardens in Hilo. The special dinner and music fundraiser features Hilo’s own big band, the Island Swing Orchestra, under the direction of Marius Stranger.

“The project needs to raise between $70,000-$100,000 yearly to pay for airfares, housing, food, transportation and activities of our programs and we are constantly fundraising,” Kikuchi said.

Expenses include round-trip airfares, housing, food, transportation and activities for victims of the Fukushima disaster.

Island Swing’s pianist, Annu Shionoya, another Japan native now living on the Big Island, said her collaboration with Kikuchi brought the Garden Party fundraiser to life.

The Garden Party includes a four-course musical showcase.

At 3 p.m. it’s slack-key guitarist Firmin Oliveira. At 4 p.m., Shionoya will be featured on piano with classical selections showcasing Kikuchi on flute. Also featured are Gerdina Markus on recorder with vocalists Kau‘ilani Trainer and Stranger. At 5 p.m., Roy Kimura’s Jazz Ensemble swings with vocalists Rebecca Statler and Elena Welch.

At 6 p.m., the full 18-piece big band will play selections from its classic songbook with the sounds of Glen Miller, Tito Puente, Frank Sinatra and more.

A three-course dinner with prime rib, scampi and vegetarian options is included in the ticket price and a full, no-host bar also will be available.

There also will be a silent auction with plenty of treasures to browse.

All proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Fukushima Kids Hawaii Project.

Tickets for the Garden Party benefit are $50 and available at Basically Books in downtown Hilo.


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