IFS Paddle Imua & Camp Imua Program Director, Maile John is the last person to tell you how big of a role she plays in Paddle Imua and Camp Imua. So we will 😉 We sat down with this Founding Five member to chat why Paddle Imua and Camp Imua are close to her heart.
1. Paddle Imua will be three years old this year! Can you tell us how you became involved?
When I was first hired as Camp Imua’s program director there was a lot of talk about getting rid of the program because it was becoming increasingly hard to fund each year. Our board of directors, executive director and I knew we could not let this happen. Dean had talked to Kaimana Brummel at Hawaiian Canoe Club prior to my employment about doing some kind of ocean event involving our camp children. When I met Kaimana we got along like a house in fire. Kaimana and I thought we had to take the idea further and with that, came up with the initial concept for Paddle Imua, using the popularity of SUP, OC1 and the desire to have more downwind events for the Maui Paddle community in order to create an event that would could not only fund camp but create awareness around it. The reason that I feel the event has been so successful is the marriage between the ocean sporting industry and giving back. Beyond the competetive paddle events throughout the state, Paddle Imua is totally mission focused. The other main reason for the events success is the amazing committee I work with. I could not do it without them. People like Devin, Sam, Kaimana, Marina, Andrea, Paige, Mary, Ian, Rodney, John, Mai and Cody drive this event.
2. I have unofficially termed you ladies the “Founding Four.” Each of you comes from a diverse background; tell us something unique about yourself?
I started working in non profits right out of high school. I think being from Hawaii, there is huge cultural value in being an active part of community. I’ve always had a desire to help those who need it . I have a 27 year old brother and a 5 year old nephew with autism so naturally children with developmental delays and special needs are of interest to me. I won’t lie, organizing and running both Paddle Imua and Camp Imua require tireless work but the payoff is hugely worth it. The kids are my main motivator and inspiration.
3. It’s clear that each of you have a special connection to the ocean, can you tell us a little about that?
Anyone who knows me knows Im a huge sailing enthusiast to the point of fever pitch. Besides that, I think living in Hawaii gives you an instant connection to the ocean. The ocean here isn’t just viewed as a place of recreation but also as a provider of food, a meeting place, and a healing place.
4. There is power in numbers and you have done an amazing job involving your own communities to really rally around the keiki of Imua. Why Imua?
Imua has personally helped my family and I have such a high opinion of what the therapists at Imua do. Everyone can rally around a child who needs it. I’ve had multiple friends who have benefited from Imua Family Services programs and have personally seen children progress beautifully with help from Imua. Here in Hawaii we really get behind family and community. I can’t think of a better nonprofit to be a part of that really helps Maui families
5. In five words describe what Paddle Imua means to you?
Paddle Imua is fun, community driven, and feel good. Paddling events are always fun and competitive but since this event is all about the Camp Imua kids, it gives all the paddlers a different kind of incentive and perspective in participating .
6.How does exposing children to ocean sports help them in other aspects of their life?
The best thing about exposing the children of Camp Imua to ocean sports is that many of the children may not have this kind of sports exposure otherwise. It’s all about focusing on what you can do and not what you are not able to do. It’s about having a positive attitude toward challenges. Our camp kids face challenges everyday and overcome. Sports has the same philosophy.
7. It’s interesting that in a male dominated sport, a group of ladies are the motor behind this engine. Comments?
Honestly this was not planned. I’ve known Devin And Samantha socially for many years. When I asked them to become planning members it was not only because they are kind, community driven and just really cool girls but also because they are some of the smartest and most capable people I know. With Kaimana and her involvement of Hawaiian Canoe Club, she is just a wealth of knowledge and such a spitfire in regards to all the ocean logistics. Andrea Moller our co chair is such a well known ocean athlete and has one of the hugest hearts. We are the perfect group. I manage the whole event, Kaimana keeps the actual race on lock, Samantha and Devin are out there in the community keeping the industry people, supporters and athletes excited and involved and Andrea is the call to action through her hands on volunteering with our camp kids. Really it’s just a coincidence that we are all women but it’s pretty darn cool.
3 quick-fire questions…
1. What are 3 things you must have when on water?
Sunscreen, Sunscreen and more sunscreen
2. When is your favorite time to be on the water?
Morning time. Nothing like starting your day on the ocean.
3. What part do you look forward to most during Paddle Imua?
When the racers cross the finish line and all of the Camp Imua children are there congratulating and thanking them with fresh flower leis I want to cry. It’s beautiful.