Our 2014 Joyful Mele Celebration

Sunday, 31 August 2014
Honolulu, HI

On August 31, our Hawai‘i community gathered for our Joyful Mele celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Joyful Heart Foundation’s work throughout the state. We celebrated our nā mele, the songs and stories that tell of our origins, our roots and of our deep love of Hawai‘i—and the many bright lights who make our work possible.

When Mariska first imagined Joyful Heart in Kailua-Kona ten years ago, no one could have foreseen the powerful impact we would have a decade later. Under a starlit sky, with full and grateful hearts, we looked back at our ten years—while looking forward into the future. 

Our evening, held at the beautiful Kahala Hotel & Resort, took place outside, with the vast ocean and lush greenery of Honolulu, accented by the silhouette of Koko Head, as our backdrop. As guests arrived, they enjoyed music from local musician David Te‘o, cocktails and conversation.

The evening was made possible by our honorary chairs Karen Chang, Wendy Crabb, Valli Kalei Kanuha, Jim Lally and Mark Polivka; our Joyful Mele Chairs Caroleen Feeney, Lynn Lally and Karen Polivka, Planning Committee Chairs Kristen Chan, Brynn Foster, Nalani Holliday, Nicole St. George and Wanda Watumull; our Hawai‘i Hearts, a group of dedicated volunteers who raise funds and generate awareness for our mission in Hawai‘i; and of course, our fearless Board of Directors. We proudly recognized Rick Blangiardi, General Manager of Hawaii News Now, with the inaugural ‘Ike Aku ‘Ike Mai Award, for his long-standing dedication to Joyful Heart and deep commitment to Hawai‘i's children, families and communities.

The program began as Kendo Music took to the stage. After guests made their way to their tables, Daniel Kaniela Akaka, Jr. and Anna Akaka chanted an opening oli, then Rev. Al Miles led us in a pule, or prayer, to focus our attention and bless us as we began the program. Our master of ceremonies for the evening, founding board member Peter Hermann, then took to the stage to welcome our guests and thank all those who made our evening possible.

He began:

“E oli oli mai. That is our ‘ōlelo no‘eau —our proverb—for this evening. Let us bring forth joy, the joy of our history, our stories, the joy of this moment in time that we share tonight, let us bring forth goodness in all we do.

"This is Joyful Heart’s 10th Anniversary, and it’s also Mariska’s and my 10th anniversary… I have to say, there is no more meaningful place for us to celebrate our marriage, and to celebrate Joyful Heart’s story, than right here...the place from where it grew into a national organization reaching people across the country.”  


He introduced Maile Zambuto, Joyful Heart’s CEO, who spoke of her deep appreciation for those that believe in our vision of a world without sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse—tremendously meaningful when the support of our community brings us closer to achieving that vision every day:

“This evening is very moving to me. If you’ve been on this side of these events, and you have this passionate belief in something—you hope with all your heart that people will come and stand with you. And here you all are.

“At Joyful Heart—and in our movement—we are on a journey. The destination? The end of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. I know that even in my lifetime we won’t get there. I have been immersed in these issues all my life and working for change for over 20 years—and I will tell you the conditions have been rough. 

“And yet as I stand here, I have a deep knowing that this violence will end.”

Kata Issari, Joyful Heart’s Vice President, Hawai‘i Region, joined her to the stage to speak of our local impact:

“I came to Joyful Heart three years ago because, as an advocate, I have three priorities: breaking the silence, supporting survivors, changing the climate. I have never felt so effective as I have here.” 

She went on to describe how, with the help of our joyful community, we have helped to create transformation in Hawai‘i—from the expansion of Namelehuapono Wahine, a culturally-based group for Hawaiian and Polynesian survivors, to our Heal the Healers work supporting professionals in the field, to sponsoring Talk Story sessions to encourage conversation and inspire action around our issues and, most recently, by launching Hawai‘i Says NO MORE, the local version of the national NO MORE initiative. With our community’s support, we have invested over $5 million in our programs and partnerships throughout the state, directly serving nearly 5,000 survivors, professionals and community members around Hawai‘i.

The evening would not have been complete if we didn’t acknowledge all those who helped launch our journey and those that have since used their light, their love and their generosity to illuminate our way. After Maile and Kata thanked these “navigators,” as they called them, Raul Esparza sang “Hallelujah” in tribute.

On this occasion of our 10th year, our Hawai‘i Advisory Committee gave us a special theme for this evening based on the words of Kahu David Kaupu. This ‘ōlelo no‘eau speaks to Joyful Heart’s work as well as our story: “Nā mele mau a mau”—“Our stories, our work, go on forever and ever.” As Dr. Kalei Kanuha, Joyful Heart board member, said: 

“This means our “work” to live and make the world a violence-free and pono [just] place... requires a lifelong commitment. Although, guided by our ancestors, we will eventually reach our destination—the end of violence and abuse—our mutual responsibility to come together as a community to support survivors, will go on and on. Just as our commitment reaches far into the future, it also reaches far into the past.”

Kalei then welcomed Mariska and Peter to the stage, for a special reading of an ancient Hawaiian story through words and photographs, shot beautifully by the Honolulu-based photographer Deborah Glazier. It is the legend of Kahalaopuna, the goddess of the rainbow, a story of grief and loss, but ultimately a story of transformation and hope. It is also a story of survivors today—and of all times and many in the audience were moved to tears when the 14 survivors of violence and abuse who posed in the photographs joined Mariska and Peter on stage while Raul Esparza and Amy Hānaiali‘i Gilliom sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” 

Even on this joyful evening, however, we recognized the journey ahead is vast. There is still much violence that exists in our island home and beyond. That is where people like Rick Blangiardi, the evening’s honoree, come in. In her remarks, Mariska Hargitay, our Founder & President, recalled Rick’s ground-breaking support of our work, starting first with the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign:

“After more than a year of teamwork, research specific to Hawai‘i, and very good and very hard thinking, Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund, in partnership with Joyful Heart, was poised to launch the unprecedented One Strong ‘Ohana campaign. But a question remained: how do we engage the private sector?

“So Maile went to the person we have the pleasure of honoring tonight:  Rick Blangiardi. Why? Because he has a heart that’s hungry to change things for the better. And not only that, he’s worked his way to a position where that heart can have broad influence…

“People know Rick is on their side. They’d run through walls for him. Addressing these issues sometimes indeed feels like you need to run through walls. First there’s one, then another, and sometimes it feels like just a lot of walls. And I can’t tell you how grateful we are when we find someone who’s willing to break down so many of them.” 

The title of our inaugural ‘Ike aku, ‘Ike Mai Award comes from a proverb by Mary Kawena Pukui: “Ike aku, ‘ike mau, kōkua aku, kōkua mai; pela iho la ka nohona ‘ohana”, which translates to, “Recognize and be recognized, help and be helped; such is family life.”

A nationally known television broadcaster who has been in the industry for 37 years, Rick truly embodies this sentiment. He has an abiding dedication to being of service to the community, demonstrated by his tireless support of community organizations and nonprofits throughout the state. He can be counted on to do what is right and helpful, acting on his responsibility to contribute to the broader ‘ohana of Hawai‘i. Thanks to over $541,000 in donated airtime from Hawaii News Now, the One Strong ‘Ohana public service announcements aired nearly 4,000 times throughout the state, with the public service campaign reaching 900,000 media impressions. The One Strong ‘Ohana campaign stands as the largest child abuse and neglect prevention campaign ever implemented in the state. At this moment, Hawaii News Now is turning its attention towards creating a Hawai‘i with NO MORE domestic violence and sexual assault. Together, Joyful Heart and Hawaii News Now will spearhead a statewide Hawai‘i Says NO MORE PSA initiative, producing and distributing a series for the ground-breaking NO MORE PSA campaign in Hawai‘i, utilizing localized messages and talent that will draw unprecedented attention to and action on these issues throughout Hawaiʻi.

As Rick said:

“I’m very much about looking ahead. Mariska talked about knocking down walls, so I’m very pleased to announce our partnership in NO MORE—a project that is poised to not just knock some walls down, but pretty much shatter them.”

After Rick concluded his remarks, auctioneer and local supporter Eric Schiff led us through our auction. When the program concluded, we had raised more than $500,000—all to fund our local work in Hawai‘i.

The evening didn’t end there though. First the crowd was serenaded by the magical voice of Amy Hānaiali‘i Gilliom, then Neiman Marcus’s Al Tomonari and Hawai‘i Heart Brynn Foster invited everyone to the NO MORE Lounge for dancing, drinks and savories. Guests made their way across the lawn and back to the Kahala, where Neiman Marcus Hawai‘i's Visual Manager had transformed the Maile Ballroom into the stunning Lounge—with the NO MORE symbol and color-scheme incorporated into everything in the room. The national NO MORE PSA campaign was on display on screens throughout the space and guests went home with action cards, NO MORE lapel pins and car magnets so that they can promote the initiative in Hawai‘i. Samantha Ronson churned out beats that had guests on their feet until midnight. 

To all those who made our celebration so special and joyful, we offer you our deepest mahalo for all you have helped us accomplish, and for the strength you give us to continue the journey ahead.


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