2023 was a banner year for the Kapiolani Radiothon for Kids. The signature two-day fundraiser for Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children began with the largest single donation in Radiothon history and ended with a stunning new record total, thanks to passionate donors and community partners.
A Milestone Moment
UHA Health Insurance kicked off the excitement early on Day 1. Just after Michael W. Perry launched the live broadcast on the airwaves of Radiothon partner KSSK FM 92.3/AM590, UHA made a surprise announcement. UHA had help from Marcie Dela Cruz, who made history at Kapiolani in 2015 by giving birth to the first surviving quintuplets in Hawaii. The now 8-year-old siblings lined up in front of the KSSK stage to unveil T-shirts that spelled out “$250K,” revealing UHA’s commitment to match all donations up to $250,000. It is the largest single gift in Radiothon’s 17-year history.
UHA also set the previous record of $100,000 in 2021. This year, the longtime supporter’s gift will go toward a major initiative at Kapiolani that UHA has been behind from the very beginning: the Martha B. Smith Cancer & Infusion Center. Once complete, the center will expand state-of-the-art cancer care for women and children in Hawaii and across the Pacific region in a larger, central space.
Front row, from left: Marcie Dela Cruz with her children, Makaio, and quintuplets Kamalii, Kapena, Kupono, Keahi, Keolu and father Ray Dela Cruz. Back row, from left: Dawn Dunbar, Hawaii Pacific Health senior vice president of Philanthropy; Suzanne Eugenio, UHA Health Insurance director of marketing and communications; Stevette Santiago, UHA Health Insurance senior vice president and chief human resources officer; Karen Keawehawaii; Gidget Ruscetta, Kapiolani chief operating officer; Michael W. Perry; Dave Underriner, Kapiolani CEO; Sweetie Pacarro; and Ray Vara, HPH president & CEO.
“We are profoundly grateful that we can help honor our longtime friend Martha Smith, a visionary health care leader who dedicated her life to creating a healthier Hawaii,” Howard Lee, UHA president and CEO, said. “As Hawaii’s only physician-founded health insurer, we hope our gift allows even more cancer patients to receive high-quality care right here at home, surrounded by their loved ones. I imagine Martha would have liked that.”
The community’s ongoing support has funded many programs that are only available in Hawaii at Kapiolani. These include the Pediatric Heart Center, Pediatric Trauma Center, pediatric cancer and transplant programs, and Critical Care Transport.
“If our donation can help expand access to technologically advanced devices and equipment at Kapiolani so even more families can participate in their children’s care, we think it is so important,” Stevette Santiago, UHA senior vice president and chief human resources officer, said. “Making this significant contribution to the Kapiolani Radiothon was the right thing to do.”
Community Partners Step Up
Dedicated community partners kept the excitement going throughout both days of Radiothon by volunteering for the phone banks and making donations of their own. On Day 2, D. Suehiro Electric, Inc. invited Crystal Ramelb and her triplets to be a part the announcement that the company would triple-match all gifts made from 7 to 8 a.m. Her triplets were born at Kapiolani where two of the boys spent their first 17 days of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Today, they are healthy, energetic 21-month-olds.
The D. Suehiro team with 2023 Children’s Miracle Network Champion Kalley-Mae Yee.
“We’re excited to celebrate D. Suehiro Electric’s triple-match hour because all these donations really help,” Ramelb said. “When you go to a hospital, you feel anxiety. But it’s different when I step into Kapiolani because I know everyone there is always going to help my kids and family.”
Then, HMSA contributed $25,000 for Kapiolani’s Fetal Diagnostic Center. The funding will go toward the center’s remote blood-pressure monitoring program. It allows pregnant women who may live in rural areas or neighbor islands, as well as those with limited transportation, to check their blood pressure at home. The results are automatically sent to the center's team which can take any steps necessary to ensure a safe pregnancy.
Marcus Mariota visits with Kapiolani patients and their families.
Another key Radiothon supporter is Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Marcus Mariota. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and Hawaii native recently visited Kapiolani, and gave pediatric patients and their families autographed footballs, mini helmets and other memorabilia.
“What Kapiolani does through Radiothon is unbelievable,” Mariota said. “Walking the halls and visiting with the kids, I got to see just how many resources are being funded by the community.”
Mariota, who has an 11-month-old baby girl, also shared a message for children undergoing treatment at Kapiolani: “Thank you for being my inspiration. The challenges and adversities I’ve experienced do not even come close to what you’re going through. Stay strong, keep fighting and know that you’ve got an entire community, an entire state, behind you.”
Local Hyundai dealers capped off Day 2 with a $35,000 donation. Hyundai has now donated $1 million to Kapiolani since 2009.
An Extraordinary Finish
It is what happened next that amazed the patients, parents, Kapiolani staff and community partners who filled Kapiolani’s Dining Room for the final moments of Radiothon.
A group of adorable kids lined up in front of KSSK’s Curt Williams, who brought his own heartfelt messages to the last evening of the live broadcasts. The keiki included 2023 Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Champion Kalley-Mae Yee, national and Kapiolani CMN Champion Haumea Friel, and other young patients who received lifesaving care at Kapiolani. At the ring of a bell, they revealed this year’s total — a stunning $820,130. This shatters the last record of $575,651 set in 2021 and marks a new milestone. The Radiothon has now raised more than $4 million for Kapiolani since the event began in 2007 in partnership with KSSK.
KSSK’s Sweetie Pacarro accepts a gift from a young donor. These are always special moments during the Kapiolani Radiothon.
“This year’s Radiothon was simply incredible,” Gidget Ruscetta, Kapiolani chief operating officer, said. “It’s so rewarding to know that the community cares this deeply about Kapiolani and the patients we serve.”
Support from sponsors and donors will help fulfill wish-list requests at Kapiolani that enhance care for its young patients, including:
- A motorized toy Ford Bronco, which has been customized so children with limited mobility can operate it while they are undergoing rehabilitation therapy.
- Specialized incubators to safely monitor and transport infants, as well as positioning devices for babies born premature or with extremely low birth weights.
- 100 new books for the new NICU library.
- Bike helmets for the Keiki Injury Prevention program.
In all, more than 20 local community groups, companies and sponsors rallied for the Kapiolani Radiothon for Kids, including UHA Health Insurance, D. Suehiro Electric, Inc., Hyundai Hope On Wheels, HMSA, Ahi and Vegetable, Alternate Energy, Paradise Poke, AlohaCare, Constructors Hawaii, Inc., Farmers Insurance, Aloha Petroleum, Watanabe Floral, Clinical Labs of Hawaii, Elite Mechanical, Locations Hawaii, Matson, Motiv8 Foundation, Ohana Health Plan, Swinerton, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Coco Ichi Hawaii, Inc., American Savings Bank, First Insurance Company of Hawaii Foundation and Unicold Corporation.
“It feels so good to connect with donors who call in to tell us how Kapiolani has positively impacted their lives,” Michelle Bartell, senior vice president and director of community advancement for American Savings Bank and Kapiolani Health Foundation board member, said. “It gives me chicken skin to hear the Kapiolani stories that people shared today. It’s really powerful to see businesses and supporters coming together to show their gratitude to Kapiolani for all it has done to keep our community healthy.”