2023 Champions for Children Gala Photos
Please join us in congratulating this year's honorees!
Mahalo to everyone who submitted a nomination and shared the incredible work that’s going on in the community. Our panel of nearly 20 community judges chose these winners and honorable mentions from dozens of public submissions.
Youth Advocate of the Year
Winner: Rylee Brooke Kamahele
Winner: Never Quit Dreaming
Honorable mentions: Hawaiʻi Chapter of Mocha Moms, Inc. & Adrian Tam
Winner: Dean Schmaltz
Honorable mentions: Andrea Alexander & Healthy Baby Hawaii
Winner: Dr. Scott Shimabukuro
Honorable mentions: Daynin Dashefsky & Tessa Coulter
Celebrate all the honorees!
Join us for HCAN's annual fundraiser and awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, from 5:30–8:30 pm, at the Royal Hawaiian.
All funds raised from the event are going directly to support Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network and our work to ensure all keiki are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. Sponsorships are also available.
About the honorees
Rylee Brooke Kamahele
Winner, Youth Advocate of the Year Award
Rylee Brooke runs a total of 3 organizations (The Secret Santa Project Hawaiʻi, Love is a Verb Foundation, and Promise to Our Keiki) under 1 umbrella called The Catalystʻs Club. Her overall mission is to create and provide opportunities for children and youth to be a catalyst for change that makes a positive impact on the world. Her organizations do everything from providing food and necessities to the homeless, animal rescue and rehabilitation, ocean conservation, and so much more. Every program meets the needs of the community in a different way. Love is a Verb Foundation focuses on building youth into leaders through partnerships with local non-profits, organizations, or businesses and with 12 fully youth-run programs that allow kids to learn leadership skills in what they are passionate about. Promise to Our Keiki cultivates young leaders and raises awareness about the impact humans have on the planet through public speaking, advocacy, civics, and eventually youth documentaries. The Secret Santa Project Hawaiʻi helps give a full Christmas experience to children and families in need. Every program was started because Rylee had a personal experience or strong tie to the cause. For example, The Secret Santa Project was started after Rylee's family endured hardship due to a car accident. Rylee is hands-on in all of her work. She also serves on multiple boards or holds titles with several partnering organizations such as One Ocean Ambassador, Board of Youth Directors for Make a Wish Hawaiʻi, Director of Keiki Relations for K9 Kokua, and Co-Facilitator for LBE Hawaiʻi.
Never Quit Dreaming.
Winner, Advocate Award
Never Quit Dreaming (NQD) is a local nonprofit that creates activities and experiences for special needs families in Hawaiʻi. Throughout the year you can find up to five sports programs dedicated to this community - Baseball, Basketball, Golf, Soccer, and Volleyball. NQD also offers a music - DJ program, an art academy, and a design studio - where artists can take their artwork and press their images onto shirts, caps, mugs, and bags.
In addition to our programs, NQD collaborates with many local businesses, to provide accommodating and unique experiences. NQD has hosted sensory-sensitive movie showings, an early shopping experience at Crocs Waikele, brought families to Kawaii Kon, Kualoa Ranch, and created the Bows Buddy program - where the University of Hawaiʻi Baseball Players are partnered up with a special needs individual/ family. Families will follow their "buddy" throughout the season, and after every Sunday Home game, families are allowed to hang out on the field - playing catch, running bases, or simply spending time with their buddies.
Hawaiʻi Chapter of Mocha Moms, Inc.
Honorable Mention, Advocate Award
The Hawai'i Chapter of Mocha Moms, Inc. serves as the premier organization for sisterhood, support, and service for mothers of color here on the island of Hawai'i. Since 2014 our chapter has provided support for women of color as they journey through all phases of motherhood while advocating for them across Hawai'i and on the mainland. We also encourage the spirit of community activism and service among our supporters. As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that supports community activism and service, we aim to assist and provide mothers and their keiki with opportunities to engage together as a community. Anyone who supports the mission and purpose of Mocha Moms, Inc. is welcome to join. Our featured events and activities include keiki learning experiences, mocha nights out, community baby showers, beach and park days, and family fun across the islands.
Honorable Mention, Advocate Award
Adrian K. Tam was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. He is the son of hard-working immigrant parents from Hong Kong and Taiwan who fled with their families from hardships in their home countries in search of a better life in the United States.
On August 8, 2020, Adrian Tam won his election to be the Democratic nominee for House District 22. On November 3, 2020, he was elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives and took office the next day. Since taking office, Representative Tam served as Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Health, Human Services, & Homelessness and the House Committee on Culture, Arts, & International Affairs. He also serves as a member on the House Finance Committee.
Tam is also a founding member of the House Equality Caucus, that advocates for LGBTQ+ legislation. Tam has also been instrumental in passing bills that help our Kupuna, Keiki, working families, and public safety.
In the community, Tam organized multiple vaccination clinics (during the COVID-19 pandemic), park clean-ups and town halls to keep the community engaged, informed, and safe. In 2022, Tam joined the Board of Directors for the Hawaii Health Harm Reduction Center. Tam joined the board to be a part of the solution to fight drug addiction and homelessness. Tam has given a number of speeches to the American Marketing Association, Hawai`i Association for College Admissions Counseling, the Rotary Club, and many other organizations.
Dean Schmaltz, Hawaii Aquatics Foundation
Winner, Innovator Award
The Hawaii Aquatics Foundation (HAF) is dedicated to improving the healthy development of Hawaii’s children and families by promoting, providing, and supporting aquatic injury prevention education and research. HAF is an IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization that was established in 2017. The foundation was formed in response to drowning being the leading cause of injury death for Hawaii’s children (ages 1-14) — more than motor vehicle occupant and pedestrian accidents combined.
The Hawaii Aquatics Academy (HAA), the education branch of HAF, is a leader in the statewide effort to provide comprehensive aquatic safety education content and services to Hawaii’s schools. HAA’s Health and Physical Education standards-aligned education programs promote safety and well-being for all of Hawaii’s children, regardless of their physical condition or their cultural, social, or economic circumstances, through a combination of classroom- and pool-based instructional activities.
In addition to our youth aquatic safety education services, HAF performs research to support the advocacy and development of a broad range of aquatic injury intervention initiatives. Our data-driven research has been used to affirm long-standing local assumptions, consistent with national studies, that children in Hawaii’s lower-income areas are at a disadvantage with respect to personal aquatic safety competencies and the protective factors they provide.
Honorable Mention, Innovator Award
Andrea Alexander is the Family, School & Community Liaison for the Hawaiʻi Statewide Family Engagement Center. Andrea has over 15 years of experience in Family and Community Engagement and Advocacy and is a Special Education Strategist. Andrea’s role as liaison centers on planning and directing diverse family, community, and academic programming. Andrea also facilitates stakeholder collaboration with a particular focus on vulnerable, at-risk, and special-needs populations.
Andrea led the creation of the Family Engagement Transition Toolkit, designed especially for emerging young adults with disabilities to utilize as a resource to support the course of transition planning for postsecondary education and employment. Strategies for student and family engagement for all ages are included to assist families, caregivers, school counselors, and service providers by offering an extensive scope of guidance for developing academic and employment goals. The Toolkit also contains information that can assist in identifying appropriate agencies, institutions, and programs that may best match student needs and interests for transition planning at any age.
Healthy Baby Hawaii
Honorable Mention, Innovator Award
Healthy Baby Hawaii is Hawaii's FIRST fresh, organic baby food company! We use fresh and organic ingredients without any additives or preservatives. We create healthy recipes, use local produce (when available), and have gluten-free and vegan options. Our goal is to provide our keiki with fresh, healthy snack and mealtime solutions. Our food items include blended purees, chunky purees, finger foods, toddler meals, and more! We also have lactation bites and oats for nursing moms to help increase breast milk production and energy. We deliver weekly and pick-up locations across Oahu, as well as shipping to all Hawaiian islands!
Healthy Baby Hawaii is owned by two Kailua mamas, Aly Akina, and Nicole Dodson. We met in '08 working in the food industry and quickly became great friends. A few years later, we happened to settle down and start our families around the same time. Once our babies reached the "solids" age, we both decided to make their foods from home with fresher ingredients rather than buy shelved, processed baby foods. But there were times when we couldn't always have food prepared and would have to get a “quick fix” from the store. Shelved baby food tends to have long expiration dates, has been cooked at high temperatures (basically all that’s left is fiber and no nutrition), and honestly just smells and tastes funny. We wanted better options and resources for fresher, healthier foods “quicker” alternatives. So we did our research and found nothing of the sort. And here we are!
We want busy parents to feel confident that the food they are feeding their keiki is fresh, organic, and preservative-free - unlike their store-bought counterparts. Parenting can be challenging enough, let us, Healthy Baby Hawaii, give you peace of mind by providing your keiki with the very best delivered straight to your door!
Dr. Scott Shimabukuro
Winner, Unsung Hero Award
Scott K Shimabukuro, Ph.D. ABPP is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Hawai`i and California and Board Certified in Family Psychology (ABPP). He serves at the Department of Health’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division (CAMHD). His activities include training community members such as providers, teachers, parents, law enforcement and judges, etc. about promoting the well-being and resilience of children and families. Other activities include fostering interagency partnering, program development, media campaigns, and policy writing all with the hope of nudging child-serving system towards betterment.
Honorable Mention, Unsung Hero Award
Coach Daynin was born & raised in Hawaiʻi and has been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since April 2001. Daynin has competed in various tournaments & has won first place in many of them. Her school, Impact Kahala Jiu-Jitsu, has been thriving for almost eight years & she has also taught various groups like the Marines, Army, Air Force, schools & businesses. Daynin travels internationally to present a variety of one-of-a-kind seminars to other BJJ academies. She also continues to build her YouTube channel & to create & invent products for her “Think Jiu-Jitsu” Brand.
Everything Coach Daynin is an extension of her motto that KJJ is a life school, not a fight school. She starts with the youngest students & teaches foundational skills within an anti-bullying framework. Not only teaching young children about dealing appropriately & safely with bullies, but also how they SHOULD treat others & their responsibility to use their jiu-jitsu skills in a positive way. This carries throughout all age levels, where she teaches students to "match up" when sparring against a smaller or less experienced sparring partner. This teaches more experienced students to control, empathy & care while teaching the younger students how to deal with anxiety or fear & develop confidence & courage. She developed a family class to give parents a great way to interact with their kids, learn about how to support both their children's & their own jiu-jitsu development, & just have fun together. Daynin also runs camps during school breaks that teach students everything from life skills like cooking, doing chores & sewing to entrepreneurship & even learning to negotiate the unknown in fun & exciting ways. Everything she does reinforces the values of accountability, responsibility, hard work & caring for others.
Honorable Mention, Unsung Hero Award
Tessa assisted families in need all over the island by utilizing her own plane or renting out one if she needed a larger size, to deliver items during and after the pandemic. She will take rescued animals to their furever home, take supplies to Molokai, Lana'i and Hana and fly over meals during the holidays for families that don't have access. She has brightened the life of children by flying over gifts for keiki during the holidays as well as Thanksgiving meals and other unique items of need. She has delivered diapers, toilet paper, women's supplies, food, etc. to make sure everyone, everywhere in Hawaii has the same access and resources. She is highly celebrated by much of the Maui community but her reach is over the full state of Hawaii. She even has a few programs she works with called Flights for Humanity and Pilot Foster program. She is definitely a superstar for keiki and families.