The 2021 Champions for Children awards will honor community members who went above and beyond to support Hawaiʻi’s keiki during the COVID-19 crisis. Awardees will be recognized at a virtual ceremony on April 7, 2021 presented by the nonprofit Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network.

HCAN’s first Champions for Children awards event was scheduled for March 2020 — just as COVID-19 became a global pandemic. We canceled the event and immediately pivoted to responding to the crisis through advocacy, public education, and community organizing. Since then, over the past ten months, we’ve seen the community step up in extraordinary ways for our keiki. In this second iteration of our event, we want to recognize some of those amazing contributions.

This year, HCAN will present 11 awards, reflecting our vision of Hawaiʻi where all children are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. There is no cost to submit a nomination, and a nominee can be submitted for multiple categories. Self-nominations are also welcome. Read more about the awards.

The virtual awards ceremony on April 7 will be free to stream, with a $25 suggested donation to HCAN. More details about the program, including tickets, food packages, and sponsorships, will be announced soon. Click here to be the first to know!



Ryan Catalani • HCAN Director of Advancement
[email protected]
(808) 531-5502 ext. 4


2020 Champions for Children Honorees

For its inaugural awards in 2020, HCAN recognized three community leaders whose careers have been dedicated to transforming the lives of Hawaiʻi’s children and families.

Al Castle was educated at Punahou and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Colorado State University. Mr. Castle was also trained at the University of New Mexico, the University of Virginia and Columbia University. He has written over 60 scholarly articles and three books. He spent 35 years as a college professor and university administrator, mainly on the mainland. For the past 23 years, Mr. Castle served as Executive Director of the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, one of America’s oldest family foundations. As such, he has led numerous initiatives on behalf of public and private preschools throughout the state. He is an avid promoter of high-quality early education and is responsible for bringing a variety of innovative teacher training opportunities to Hawaii. Mr. Castle is also a trustee of the Pettus Foundation in Saint Louis, Missouri, Colorado’s Martha S. Trimble Trust, and the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative in Washington, DC.

“The Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, with 180 years in Hawaii, has long served Hawaii’s early education. It is my great pleasure to work with HCAN to continue our additional work as an advocate for Hawaii’s keiki and to create a high-quality, accessible public-private early educational system,” said Castle.

Kū Kahakalau is the founder and former director of Kanu O Ka ʻĀina, the first Hawaiian-focused public charter school, located on Hawaiʻi Island. An award-winning educator, researcher, songwriter and Hawaiian language and culture expert, Dr. Kahakalau has been involved in indigenous, particularly Hawaiian, education and research for over 30 years. Her work has promoted the revitalization of Hawaiian language and culture, hands-on learning in the environment, community sustainability, food sovereignty, and Hawaiian self-determination in education and beyond using a Pedagogy of Aloha.

“When we immerse learners in an atmosphere of aloha and respect, when we engage them in authentic learning, solving real-world problems in our communities and make them understand their responsibilities as island residents and global citizens, education becomes relevant, it becomes real, exciting – and world-class, and to top it off, education becomes fun – as it should be!” said Dr. Kahakalau.

Calvin Sia​ is a pediatrician and lifelong advocate for children in Hawai’i and across the world. He started innovative programs in Hawaiʻi that have been adopted nationally and internationally. Among the many accomplishments, Dr. Sia revolutionized the quality of medical care for children by creating the concept of Family-Centered Medical Home with home visiting programs to prevent child abuse and neglect as part of this system of care. In addition, he co-founded Hawaii’s Zero to Three Program, a Healthy and Ready to Learn Center and Variety School for Learning Disabilities. He is still active in the community and is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Hawai’i John A. Burns School of Medicine.

“Let's take action now to help Hawaiʻi’s young children achieve their physical, mental, and social potential. Early learning begins in the critical first three years of life,” said Dr. Sia.

Dr. Sia passed away on August 19, 2020 at the age of 93. HCAN spoke with him ahead of the March 2020 event, where he reflected on his career and his vision that all children will “achieve physical, mental, and social well-being.” We continue to honor that mission in his honor and memory.


About HCAN

Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network (HCAN) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and the only one in the state of Hawaii solely committed to advocating for children. We address the root causes of poverty and inequity and develop public policies that help children and their families.  

Our Mission: Building a unified voice educating and advocating for Hawaii's children.

Our Vision: All of Hawaiʻi’s children are healthy, safe and ready to learn.

Click here to learn more about HCAN.