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Joyful Dinner with Me&Ro and Neiman Marcus
As the sun was setting over the Pacific, a lively crowd gathered at Neiman Marcus, event host and underwriting sponsor, for an evening celebrating Joyful Heart's work in Hawai‘i.
One hundred fifty local philanthropists, business leaders, advocates and program partners joined Joyful Heart Founder & President, Mariska Hargitay, along with Joyful Heart Board Chairman, Tom Nunan, and Board members Valli Kalei Kanuha and Peter Hermann, for an event that brought people together to learn more about Joyful Heart's six years working in the community as well as our plans for the future.
Guests including Kim Coco Iwamoto from the Hawaiʻi Board of Education, Judy Lind, Executive Director of the Kukui Children's Foundation, Adriana Ramelli and Holly Bloom from the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, Martha Ross from Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Nicole and B.J. Kobayashi, President and CEO, Kobayashi Group, Carrie Sutherland, Senior Program Officer from Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Mark Polivka, President, Monarch Insurance Services, Joan Bennett, President/CEO, Bennett Group, Judy Bishop, Women's Fund of Hawaiʻi, Susan and Bert Kobayashi, Founder, Kobayashi Group, Barbara and Sonny Ching, Chairman Aloha Airlines, Wanda and Rajan Watumull, CEO and Director, Watumull Enterprises Ltd., Kata Issari from Parents and Children Together, and philanthropists, Lynn and Jim Lally.
Guests joined event hosts Kristen Chan, Brigitte Egbert, Sydney Fernandez Fasi, Stacey Hee and Nalani Holliday (pictured above with Mariska Hargitay) along with Joyful Heart staff including Executive Director, Maile Zambuto, Associate Executive Director, Stacey Bosworth, Lisa Denning, Senior Program Manager for Hawai‘i and Sarah Tofte, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships, for cocktails and canapés on the main floor to view one of a kind jewelry by Me&Ro designer Robin Renzi, during a four-day trunk show with a portion of the proceeds being donated to support JHF programming in Hawai‘i. Guests were met by Renzi who was having a blast helping people adorn themselves with her beautiful and meaningful pieces, many designed specifically to support Joyful Heart.
The evening opened with a blessing presented by Joyful Heart Foundation Hawai‘i Advisory Committee member, Na'auao Vivas, who spoke to the group and said while he would be chanting in Hawaiian, the language of his people and his heart, that he felt the blessing would be received and understood in each person's own heart and language.
Al Tomonari, Vice President and General Manager of Neiman Marcus Honolulu, welcomed the dinner attendees, thanked the host committee and JHF staff and honored Mariska's commitment to the Hawaiian community before introducing her.
Mariska then spoke about the early days of the foundation and her role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
I obviously had my role to play on television, but I knew I wanted to play a role in healing that pain, ending the isolation, and honoring the great courage survivors were showing by reaching out for help.
That knowledge and that desire gave birth to Joyful Heart. And that is why it is so meaningful for me to be here with you in Hawai‘i, because the idea for Joyful Heart, the realization of how to we could best serve survivors, was born here, in the waters off the Kona Coast.
When I am here, I always feel like I am walking around in the gifts of hope, healing, possibility and joy, and those gifts have become the foundation of our commitment to help survivors reclaim their lives. In many ways, this foundation is simply a way to pass along Hawai‘i's gifts, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be here tonight to say 'thank you.'
After Mariska spoke, Lisa Denning introduced JHF's film, The Joyful Revolution, which was largely filmed in Hawai‘i in 2009. In her intro of the film Denning said, "As I share our work with the community, I often struggle to find words to describe the suffering, loss and betrayal of violence and abuse. It's also difficult to articulate the experience of a survivor finding her voice, reclaiming power, building trust and rediscovering the possibility of joy."
Tonight, we come together to demonstrate what a community looks like that turns towards these issues and commits its attention, resources and compassion to meeting the needs and healing the suffering of its members.
At Joyful Heart, we are boldly meeting the growing needs of our community here in Hawai‘i.
In our first five years, we served 800 survivors and healers. Through our retreats and wellness programs, we will serve 1000 more in this year alone.
And I am proud to share that we have invested 2 million dollars in our programs and partnerships here in Hawai‘i.
As we grow, we remain committed to expanding, enhancing, and supporting existing programs and services in Hawai‘i. Our interest is to not duplicate what is already being done, but to support and affirm existing programs.
Tonight we celebrate our many partners—the men, women and organizations, revolutionaries—who have shown us the way. We are so proud to stand with you, to learn from you and to grow with you.
At the conclusion of the program, Joyful Heart Board Member and Chair of the JHF Hawai‘i Advisory Committee, Valli Kalei Kanuha, shared her experience with Joyful Heart and her connection to it's mission and work in Hawai‘i.
I am so honored and pleased to be associated with Joyful Heart for a number of reasons. First, Joyful Heart was conceived as a lived experience of Mariska's right here in the sacred oceans of these islands.
Second, this place, the indigenous lands as well as the adopted homeland of my ancestors is endowed with healing and light, again because it is a place rooted in respect for all things—plants, sea creatures, the stars, tides, forests, birds and humans. We are a place that has suffered deep trauma and we yearn for healing, which is among the key missions of Joyful Heart.
And finally, in this 35th year of my work to end violence against women and children, I can tell you that in my three decades of travel around the U.S. and internationally—consulting, teaching and training—on sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect, there is no other organization like the Joyful Heart Foundation that can put focused voice and light to healing from violence.
At the end of the evening, Joyful Heart's Hawai‘i Advisory Committee presented Mariska with a makana symbolizing the Foundation's connection to the island on Hawai‘i. The Committee, which includes Valli Kalei Kanuha, Chair, Jamee Miller, Co-Chair, Raylene Kawai'ae'a, Wally Lau, R. Kealohapau'ole Manaku, W. Na'auao Vivas, Huelynn Whitford and Lani Kamau Yamasaki, acts as guide for Joyful Heart's efforts in Hawai‘i offering counsel on a range of social, cultural, historical and spiritual matters. Kalei explained the significance of the makana as it was presented:
It is with humility and respect that I call up Mariska to receive a makana or gift that has been prepared for her on behalf of the Hawai‘i Advisory Committee. The makana that we will present to Mariska contains healing foods gathered and created from the island of Hawai‘i. We think of Hawai‘i island as the birthplace or piko of the Joyful Heart Foundation, and therefore this gift represents the connection from Joyful Heart's "birthplace" to the continuation and growing of our work throughout these islands, and specifically tonight here on Oahu. The healing foods contained in this gift are very traditionally Hawaiian, and are offered personally for Mariska's health and well-being, and through her, the health and longevity of Joyful Heart.
We present this gift with deepest regard and gratitude on behalf of everyone who has been touched by Joyful Heart, who has yet to be healed through the generosity of Joyful Heart, and who loves Hawai‘i as a healing place for all people who live aloha.