Employment Services – Nalu’s Story

Nalu Kauwe-Simeona began working for Pizza Hut Hawaii (Puainako Shopping Center location), in Hilo, Hawaii on March 31, 2016. Nalu’s journey towards seeking competitive employment began with Discovery – a comprehensive process that focuses on identifying the job seeker’s abilities, strengths, values, hobbies and interests towards employment. Through Discovery, Nalu’s love for Pizza inspired him to someday work for Pizza Hut Hawaii.

In support of Nalu’s career goals, Easter Seals Hawaii Employment Services partnered with Restaurant General Manager Michelle Moku to coordinate a situational assessment – with intentions to match Nalu’s vocational abilities to the employers’ specific needs. Nalu’s positive work ethic was the perfect fit for cleaning the dining area after lunch operations. A customized position was created and Nalu was soon hired as an official crew member of Pizza Hut Hawaii. His responsibilities include filling the ice dispenser machine, wiping tables and windows, scrubbing the window sills, cleaning the buffet line and sneeze guards and sweeping the floors.Pizzahut1.jpg

Through employment, Nalu’s independence has sky-rocketed. Since his official hiring date in March, Nalu needed just two months of hands-on job coaching services to maximize his independence at work, with emphasis on building relationships with his co-workers. Today, he works independently, without the need of an outside job coach and enjoys the natural support he receives from his supervisor and co-workers. “We enjoy having Nalu as part of the team; he arrives to work with a great attitude and looks forward to working every day,” said co-worker Cassi Kaneda, who monitors Nalu’s job performance.

In addition, Nalu learned how to independently catch a taxi to work from our ADH program, walk safely home after work, budget his earnings, and spend his hard earned money. Nalu’s dream is to someday save enough money to purchase his very own Ford Mustang GT.

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Nalu’s success story continues to inspire many. “This is just the beginning,” said Lahaina Olsen-Kuroda, Senior Employment Associate, who worked closely with Nalu throughout the entire employment process. “Everyone, regardless of the disability, has a unique set of skills that can benefit a business.   The key is finding the right fit for both the job seeker and the employer.” Nalu’s employment success opens the door for the next job seeker and helps educate businesses on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. Michelle Moku, said it best when initially approached on the idea of hiring people with disabilities, “Everybody deserves an opportunity to work!”

Special thanks to Pizza Hut Hawaii for their partnership and commitment in building a better community!

Nalu Pizza Hut

Michelle Moku, Nalu Kauwe-Simeona, & Cassi Kaneda

Mahalo to Waiakea High School in Hilo!


On Saturday, February 22nd, students and faculty at Waikea High School (WHS) gathered at their annual Variety (Talent) Show to present a $1,000 check to Easter Seals Hawaii’s Hilo Early Intervention Program. The students, dressed in various outfits, showcased their talents and presented the check to ESH Hilo EI’s Social Worker, Cheryl Jackson.

The WHS students and faculty raised the money through their annual event called Santa’s Workshop on December 5th, 2013. Students from their feeder elementary schools, Waiakea Waena and Waiakea Elementary were invited to purchase new or gently-used items for their family and friends as holiday gifts.

Mahalo to our friends at Waiakea High School, you all have such big hearts! 

Mahalo to all those that supported our Gingerbread Family Festival!

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From all of us at Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH), we’d like to say thank you for all of the support and your participation in our statewide Gingerbread Family Festival! Hundreds of families enjoyed decorating their gingerbread houses, pictures with Santa, live entertainment and even a craft fair!

Please enjoy a few of our favorite moments from each island.


Gingerbread Family Festival

Our Easter Seals Hawaii participants had so much fun greeting and meeting families that came to participate in our Gingerbread Family Festival at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center on Sunday, Dec. 8.

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Chevez and Keli'iloa 2

At ESH Hilo, Chevez and Keli’ikoa had so much fun decorating their gingerbread house, they wanted to eat it after! Hilo’s festival was also held on Sunday, Dec. 8.

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Kids created some wonderful masterpieces at ESH Kauai’s Gingerbread Family Festival on Saturday, Dec. 14.

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Please join us next year!

More photos available on our Facebook page.

We’re getting ready for the biggest holiday festival of the year!

DSC_0043Wait until you see all the candy we’ve packed for you all in your gingerbread kits!

Nearly 160 volunteers arrived at the University of Hawaii at Manoa last Sunday to help Easter Seals Hawaii prepare for the Gingerbread Family Festival. The volunteers helped put together 2,000 gingerbread kits. Safeway donated 2,000 gingerbread houses and CVS Caremark/Longs Drugs donated 16,000 bags of candy!

DSC_0040Here we have some UH students helping us out with packing fruit slices.

ESH and the Gingerbread Family Festival event directors had a gummy bear station, fruit slices station, peppermint station and more. Our volunteers had a blast unwrapping all the of the fruity candy and placing them in bags for our gingerbread kits.


Mahalo to our volunteers!


Some of our adult participants and their family members helped to pack candy and assemble gingerbread kits.

The Gingerbread Family Festival, presented by The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and now in its 14th year on O‘ahu, its 12th year in Kauai and Hawai’i Island and its first year in Maui. It is Easter Seals Hawaii’s largest fundraiser, raising nearly $200,000 annually to support programs and services for infants, children and adults with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and muscular dystrophy.

To reserve your kit, volunteer or learn more about how you can help Easter Seals Hawaii, visit GINGERBREADHAWAII.COM!

Let’s get ready to CRUMBLE!!!

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Let’s get ready to crumble! Our 14th Annual Gingerbread Family Festival is coming up in THREE WEEKS!

In December 1999, friends, family and supporters of Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH) gathered in a small conference room at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center to enjoy the fun of building and decorating 50 gingerbread houses to raise funds for ESH. Fourteen years later, with a creative vision inspired by Chef Alan Wong, what began with a few sheet of freshly baked gingerbread, handfuls of candy and icing, and a desire to help ESH has grown to become Hawaii’s most exciting and beloved island holiday tradition!

Today, ESH’s annual Gingerbread Family Festival has grown statewide with more than 6,000 guests and volunteers of all ages building and decorating more than 1,400 gingerbread houses. Join in the fun and bring your holiday spirit!

This year our Gingerbread Family Festival will be held on:

Sunday, December 8th on Oahu

  • at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center
  • from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (first session)
  • from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (second session)

Sunday December 8th on Hilo

  • at the Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin Sanha Hall
  • from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Saturday, December 14th on Kauai

  • at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center
  • from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (first session)
  • from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. (second session)

Saturday, December 14th on Maui (our first year on Maui!)

  • at the Easter Seals Hawaii Kahului location
  • from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (first session)
  • from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (second session)

Reserve your gingerbread kits today at www.GINGERBREADHAWAII.com.

Halloween Across the Islands

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Halloween at Easter Seals Hawaii is not just another fun holiday for us…it’s a reason to party! Our programs across the Hawaiian Islands have hosted “Spooktacular” parties for their participants and their families.

On Hilo, ESH Hilo Early Intervention held a party that featured an obstacle course, arts, crafts and snacks! Fifteen families attended and had so much fun with the various ‘sensory’ activities and cool decor! Our Hilo EI Program Social Worker, Cheryl Jackson, said, “The weather was great for playing in the goop outside and riding rocking horses after crawling through tunnels inside. Some families didn’t want to leave!”

On Kauai, the Lihue Service Center held a Halloween Party for adult participants at Lydgate Beach Park! The sun and weather were perfect for swimming and spending the day at the beach. The party featured games, costumes, yummy treats and even a Halloween Sculpture Contest!

On Oahu, the Sultan Early Intervention Program held a fun “trick or treat” party in the courtyard. ESH staff gave out cool toys, stickers and yummy treats. Top costumes were The Hulk and The Quarterback.

A statewide charity walk connects the ESH ohana

The statewide 2013 Visitor Industry Charity Walk was exciting, fun and filling! The charity walk attracted more than 14,000 walkers in Hawaii! The Visitors Industry Charity Walk on all islands raised a total of $1.67 million for Hawaii’s nonprofits. This year, Maui raised the most money out of all the islands for the third year in a row. ESH President and CEO Christopher E. Blanchard was ecstatic that ESH on all islands were able to participate. He said, “It is a demonstration of the commitment of our ESH staff to our Easter Seals Hawaii ohana.” For ESH, it was their first time to participate as an organization. Blanchard said, “We were out there as a family. The charity walk connected our Easter Seals Hawaii ohana across the islands. Although each island did it independently, they all had the same goal: to benefit and support the state’s nonprofits.”


This is just a small group of our ESH Oahu walkers! Mahalo to all of our staff, families and friends for coming out to support!

On Oahu, about 60 ESH staff, family members and friends braved the humid air and rising sun not only to represent ESH, but to thank hotel staff walkers for participating and supporting local organizations. The walk was abundant in local cuisine and tasty snacks that left most walkers stuffed after the final sixth mile. ESH received recognition by radio hosts for their enthusiasm and participation. 6,800 walkers participated in the Oahu walk and raised $452,000 for Hawaii nonprofits. As part of Development’s 2013 plan to raise more funds, Iwalani Dayton, Vice President of Development, initiated the participation of Easter Seals Hawaii on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island to be involved with the largest charity walk statewide.


ESH Maui proudly represented the red seal of Aloha!


In Maui, the overcast sky did not discourage ESH staff and participants from walking! They had a good time talking story and taking photos during the 3.1 mile walk. According to Maui Now, the Maui Visitor Industry Charity Walk raised a total of $701,716 for dozens of local organizations. Our ESH Maui staff was among the 2,327 walkers. Thanks for the photos Panui!



The Kauai Visitors Industry Charity Walk featured entertainment and a Zumba warm up! ESH Kauai proudly represented the organization with 11 walkers and 11 volunteers at the ESH booth with a DJ, a refreshing misting station and a colorful doggie water station! ESH kept the 2.9 mile walk interesting and motivating with the DJ’s energetic music and cheerleaders. The Kauai walk had a total of 2,133 walkers and raised $200,992 for Hawaii nonprofits. The charity walk is nothing new for ESH Kauai, they have been participating for 30 years.


ESH President & CEO Christopher E. Blanchard poses with his brother-in-law Craig Hawkins in Kona. 


ESH President and CEO Christopher Blanchard, his brother-in-law and an ESH participant joined nearly 3,000 walkers at the Hawaii Island Visitor Industry Charity Walk in Kona! The walk was four miles long and raised more than $228,119 for Hawaii nonprofits.

According to officials, the Visitor Industry Charity Walk is one of the biggest fundraisers in the state. It started in 1978 and has since raised a total of $26.3 million for Hawaii charities. Easter Seals Hawaii thanks all hotel staff and those involved in coordinating such a successful charity walk, it made us feel great to be part of such a giving and caring community.