Waimea Paddler Spurs Fight Against Breast Cancer in “Hulakai Race to Fitness”

Derek Park had a question—which led to an idea. What if persons dedicated themselves to improving the wellness and safety of others by taking on activities that enhanced their own health?

A familiar part of the idea will be displayed when Derek picks up his paddle in the November 17 “Hulakai Race to Fitness,” an event that will begin at Richardson’s and end at Hilo Bay. The proceeds from his local sponsorship, notably businesses and individuals, will go to supporting patients who need financial assistance for early breast cancer treatment from North Hawaii Community Hospital’s (NHCH) new Breast Health Program. “It’s people like Derek who give real meaning to the word kokua and embrace the entire community with their deeds,” stressed NHCH Vice President of Development, Marketing, and Communications Kerry Howell.

Derek Park

A five-year member of the Parker Ranch maintenance crew, Derek is a seasoned veteran of paddling competitions. His concerns about breast cancer are anything but impersonal. Years ago, Derek’s mother suffered multiple treatments for a malignant breast tumor and eventually underwent a mastectomy.

Moving to the Big Island seven years ago, he was still reflecting on her ordeal. “When I began paddling, I thought to myself, ‘I’m young, I’m healthy.’ Then I’d go home and realize how I’d love to know that my life could inspire other people to do good things, whether it’s beating breast cancer or something else.”

Derek’s decision was further strengthened by his friend and fellow paddler, Chris Landers, who was killed in a head-on car collision. “Chris always put every other person’s concerns ahead of his own,” he recalled.

Actions to fulfill his convictions were not long in coming. One earlier running competition, the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure, sent a potent message of support to breast cancer victims. “The goal is to increase my sponsorship for the races and give all the proceeds to patients in need,” he explained.

November 17 will mark Derek’s second entry in the Hulakai Race, which offers still another unique boost to his mission. The competition’s promoter, Jun Balanga, is no less committed to fostering wellness on the Big Island, viewing paddling as a truly Hawaiian vehicle for doing so. Or, as Derek said, “Any race he (Jun) puts together, I’ll be in.”

In his drive to “help others be healthy,” Derek clearly grasps the power of the visual. Designing his own “Paddling for Hope” logo, he was struck by the tendency of paddlers to strictly wear black or white. What to do? “I want to be the only guy wearing pink,” Derek enthused, “until every guy there wears pink and will be racing for something! People will say, ‘Look, he’s racing for NHCH which wants to make sure women can get mammograms’, or some other cause for staying healthy.”

NHCH’s new Breast Health Program offers patients access to a the latest cutting edge digital mammography technology, a more comfortable exam experience, faster image analysis and on-going support, in coordination with Hawaii’s new mammography self-referral law, which took effect on July 1st, 2012. For more information or to schedule an annual mammogram appointment, please contact NHCH’s Breast Health Program at 881-4882.

NHCH Background: North Hawaii Community Hospital (NHCH) is a rural 33-bed acute care hospital located in Kamuela, on Hawai‘i Island. Non-profit and locally governed, the hospital opened in May 1996 and cares for Hawai‘i Island residents and visitors. NHCH offers an extensive set of hospital services that are centered on patient needs, creating a healing experience for the whole person – mind, body and spirit. Please visit www.NHCH.com for more information

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