Benefactor Becomes Beneficiary
Teen who joined, aided fishing tourney for cancer patients, contracts leukemia and receives financial help
By MELISSA TANJI, Staff Writer
POSTED: July 22, 2009
WAILUKU – Teen Michael Waki had participated several times in a local fishing tourney benefiting young cancer patients while not knowing that in a few years, he, too, would be a tournament beneficiary.
The Wailuku resident, who suffers from an aggressive form of leukemia, was chosen to be a beneficiary of the annual Daniel Perreira Memorial Spearfishing Tournament, a Father’s Day event named after a 2-year-old Maui boy who had died of cancer in 2002. The tournament also benefits the Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation.
Waki, 14, was struck by acute myeloid leukemia about a year ago. He had participated in the tourney several times when he was well and dived with his father, Dan. Michael once won a one-person kayak as a grand prize in a tourney drawing, but sold it and donated the money back.
“That kid, Michael, is so special because he chose to sell the kayak that he won and donate all the proceeds to the HCCF despite not even having his own set of dive gear,” recalled Brian Yoshikawa, a primary event organizer and owner of Maui Sporting Goods in Wailuku. “It was incredible to watch this (then) little 10-year-old trying to stuff $500 into a donation jar I keep on my counter at work, knowing that he could have kept some of the cash and even all of it. His simple response was that there were kids that could use the money more than he could use the kayak.”
In an e-mail, Yoshikawa said, “In such an ironic, cruel twist of fate. Michael is now that kid that can use our support, prayers and well-wishes as he is going through ongoing treatment in Seattle.”
The tournament held June 21 at Baldwin Beach Park raised a record total, organizers said. Waki will receive more than $12,000, with at least $16,000 more going to the Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation. Organizers said donations still are trickling in, and the outpouring of support during these hard economic times surprised them.
A record 102 entered the invitation-only tournament, which meant 204 divers in the water since a guardian or a parent dived with each child. This year, three girls bagged the largest fish in the papio division, which includes boys under age 12 and female divers of all ages.
Dan Waki said recently via cellular phone from Seattle that he was surprised when Yoshikawa dedicated the tourney to Michael.
“We weren’t expecting anything like that,” the dad said.
The former owner of W & F Washerette in Kahului, Dan Waki had donated money as well as supplied propane and ice to the tourney, Yoshikawa said.
Yoshikawa said when he found out Michael had cancer, it was “automatic” that he would dedicate the tourney to the youth.
Michael suffers from AML, which the American Cancer Society says starts in cells that normally develop into different types of blood cells. The condition begins in the bone marrow but in most cases quickly moves into the blood.
“Acute” means the leukemia can progress quickly and, if not treated, be fatal in a few months, according to ACS.
Dan Waki, wife Sally and Michael were staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle when the dad was interviewed for this story.
Dan Waki said an April bone marrow transfer had failed to eradicate the cancer but had slowed the cancer to prior levels.
Nevertheless, Dan Waki said they felt “very sad.”
“I told my son, he just has to depend on the Lord now and look for a miracle to happen,” the father said.
Dan Waki was especially disappointed because the bone marrow donor was Michael’s biological sister, 15-year-old Jamie Blatchford of Colorado. The siblings met for the first time in Seattle when she made the donation.
Dan Waki is Michael’s granduncle who adopted him. Jacqueline Blatchford, who is Michael’s biological mother and Dan Waki’s niece, traveled with Jamie to Seattle.
Dan Waki said his family will return soon to Hawaii and travel to Oahu for a different treatment.
Michael’s ordeal has been a long journey involving chemo-therapy, hair loss, getting poked and probed by needles, hospitalization in an intensive care unit and numerous medicines.
But Dan Waki said he is glad he and his wife recently retired so they can be with Michael every step of the way. The dad said Michael stays in touch with Maui friends via Internet, especially the Facebook social networking site.
The Wakis receive spiritual help from their congregation at Kahului Union Church and other Maui churches. The father asked for prayers for Michael and the family.
The former Father’s Day Spearfishing Tournament was renamed in 2003 for Daniel Perreira, nephew of Yoshikawa’s wife, Janice, who is a Pacific Cancer Institute of Maui nurse.