KAPA Hawaiian FM DJ Tommy “Kahikina” Ching passed the green.
Kahikina, resort founder, father, grandfather, prankster, island celebrity, avid golfer and now world record holder, ended up raising $63,000 for the Hawai’i Island United Way over the course of its 12-day, 261-hour radiothon.
Donations exceeded Kahikina’s original target of $50,000 and skyrocketed, well past the $35,000 figure he sat in late Thursday, which left the DJ slightly depressed, just days away from last marathon day friday.
But that was ancient history when Kahikina recorded its 261st radio hour around noon, and collections hit $63,000 and kept climbing.
“Today not only did my dream come true, but we made the dreams of many come true,” Kahikina said during her final radio segment of the marathon session. “Everyone gave.”
Friends, family, journalists, and agency and government officials packed Kahikina’s quaint KAPA studio that doubled as a bedroom to celebrate the feat. This was the second time Kahikina stayed on the air to raise funds for HIUW. In 1992, the 69-year-old was on the mic for 144 hours for KAPA when he was on AM radio. He raised $35,000 at the time.
“There’s so much that just blew my mind,” Carol Pacheco, HIUW’s office coordinator, said of the amount raised. “It’s going to help us get to the level we need.”
Pachheco said the funds will allow the organization, which raises money to give other nonprofits on the Big Island, the flexibility to administer smaller grants for programs that need support. immediate help. Fundraising has been down since the pandemic, and the infusion couldn’t come at a better time.
She spent time in the KAPA studio with Kahikina during the radiothon to offer moral support along the way. Kahikina spent 18 hours a day on her feet, slept only two hours a night, and the grueling demand took its toll.
“Nobody stepped in like you did,” she told the DJ during one of those moments when things seemed frustrating.
Kahikina received a congratulatory call from Mayor Mitch Roth as the final minutes of the record ticked away Friday, and Hawai’i County Deputy Chief Executive Officer Bobby Command presented a proclamation to the DJ in his office. The command even asked Kahikina to sign his personal autograph book, a brochure loaded with world, national and island personalities.
“It’s for people who are important,” Kahikina told him.
“And you are important,” the Command replied.
HIUW President and Professional Director Karen Davis also thanked Kahikina through a formal statement, praising him for his tireless efforts, which was read aloud.
“Kahikina truly exemplifies the mission of HIUC,” Davis wrote. “A huge mahalo nui loa to Kahikina, KAPA Radio, and our charitable and gracious donors.”
What’s next for Kahikina other than rest? He said he had a thing or two in mind.
“I have all kinds of ideas,” Kahikina said before naming one of her bosses. “It’s up to this guy to see how wild I can get.”
Then, with the radiothon record and fundraising goal in hand, Kahikina, still comfortable in front of the mic, turned it on for her final segment to say thank you and aloha. Sometimes his voice quivered with emotion and fatigue.
“We all came together for one purpose,” he said.
Then the crowd of supporters counted the last seconds, and it was over.
“And I’ll see you after I leave the golf course,” Kahikina said at the end, just before turning off the microphone.