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With a flick of a switch, one man's $200,000 goal was realized, bringing new lights to the Moanalua High School tennis courts that will benefit the community

By Cindy Luis

LAST UPDATED: 3:22 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2011

As the crowd watched in semi-darkness on the Moanalua High tennis courts Wednesday night, a full moon broke through the clouds, allowing for two words on the blue mesh fence to be visible. Just barely.

"We Believe."

Ten seconds later, that all changed.

A switch was flipped, not only illuminating the words on the fence but lighting the four courts that had been dark since March 2009.

The persistence of Moanalua High director of tennis Kyle Kaneshiro, public generosity in tough economic times, and a grant from Sen. Daniel Inouye's Hawaii 3R's program all paid off. In two years, Kaneshiro raised the $200,000 needed to replace the light poles that had fallen, one by one, victims of age and rust.

"We went from four courts being lit to two to zero," said Kaneshiro, who has coached at Moanalua for 12 years. "Once that last pole went down, the school decided to go without lights.

"It was devastating for the kids and the other programs that we ran at night. We knew the DOE didn't have the money. Everyone was hurting economically. We decided to keep plugging away to get the $200,000 on our own."

"We didn't think, in this economy, we'd be able to do this, not in two years," said Gary Au Young, Moanalua's varsity coach the past 10 years. "It's going to be great for the community, to be able to run programs at night, the adult classes. The courts are used all the time.

The courts not only have been used for the high school program, which has been successful in Oahu Interscholastic Association and state competition. Dozens of banners hang at the courts, courtesy of the K2TENS youth team tennis program, and the complex hosts local and national qualifying tournaments as well as a fundraiser for the Hawaii Children's Cancer Foundation.

When applying for the Hawaii 3R's grant, Kaneshiro was asked by Ryan Shigetani, the program's executive director, how many people the tennis complex served annually.

"I told him probably 13,000," said Kaneshiro, the Honolulu Country Club tennis pro who played at Waianae High and Hawaii Pacific.

The grant provided a big chunk of the money needed, but many who had been touched by the various tennis programs also gave back.

Hugh Yoshida's grandson has been in the K2TENS program for several years. The retired University of Hawaii athletic director helped with the fundraising efforts, including successful golf tournaments, and wasn't surprised by the donations.

"It's very indicative of the impact that the programs have on the community," Yoshida said. "Kyle took the initiative, really beat the bushes, and people feel good about doing something good for the community."

The $200,000-plus raised doesn't include an estimated $100,000 donated in time and services by electrical engineers (one a former student), electrical contractors (one a business contact) and structural engineers.

"I made a lot of new friends and a lot of old friends came back to help," Kaneshiro said. "I couldn't have done this alone. We are still getting emails about helping. I am blessed."

So were the courts on Wednesday.

"These lights are lighting the community with hope and will be a positive influence on many," New Hope pastor Randy Furushima said during his blessing.

The question posed on fundraising flyers and banners the past two years has been, "Got Lights?" It was answered Wednesday with a flip of a switch.

For information on K2TENS, call 721-TENS (8367).

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