Kayleen Konohia-Williams, 50, spent most of Friday morning and early afternoon relaxing in her home on Oahu’s windward side with the youngest of her eight kids: her 15-year-old son, Keoni Williams, and 13-year-old daughter, Day-Lee Williams.
Days like Friday aren’t the norm.
Konohia-Williams has worked as a correctional officer for 16 years, and for the last six has worked the graveyard shift. Although she works while the kids are asleep, by the time she gets home they are getting ready to go to school.
Most days, Keoni and Day-Lee also have full schedules. They usually don’t get home until around 8 or 9 at night because of commitments to sports, and by that time Konohia-Williams is getting ready to leave for work again. They usually don’t have even an hour to catch up on each other’s day, she said.
Konohia-Williams took a few days off from work and the kids were on Thanksgiving break, giving the three a rare opportunity to hang around the house for a bit.
Participating in sports is a big deal for the family.
Keoni plays football and basketball and is looking to try track. Day-Lee’s current focus is softball, although she’s played volleyball and basketball as well.
In fact, all eight of Konohia-Williams’ kids played multiple sports growing up. Day-Lee said she spends two to three hours a day practicing, noting that she had batting practice in the rain Tuesday after not hitting well in a softball game. One of the older daughters even got scholarships in college for playing softball, and the eldest son plays college football.
The kids’ strong affinity for sports can be attributed to their late father, Danny Williams, 48, who coached all eight of his kids in many of their sports.
Konohia-Williams said he “was so proud of his kids … He would always volunteer to coach.”
Williams died in February 2016 after serious heart problems made it difficult to work and coach. He had multiple surgeries, and even had a pacemaker and heart defibrillator implanted.
At the time, his family and his sister’s family — 16 people in all — were living at his parents’ large home, also on the windward side.
Konohia-Williams said she was out of the house when she got the call that her husband was unresponsive and had been rushed to Castle Medical Center at around 9 p.m. on a Saturday night. About 9:45 p.m. Konohia-Williams called off the effort to revive him.
Soon after, Konohia-Williams, Keoni and Day-Lee moved out of the house. The three rented a nearby home with one of Konohia-Williams’ older daughters and her family.
Konohia-Williams said the months immediately after were difficult for the whole family.
“I was numb, I couldn’t feel anymore,” she said. “I was trying to go ahead and be depressed or just lock myself in my room, which I really wanted to do the day after we lost their dad, but we ended up going to church the next day.”
She had to continue working nights, which was difficult for Keoni and Day-Lee.
The extended family played a major role in helping “fill the gaps.”
“The (older) siblings would step in if they knew I was too busy at work or if I was grieving because I’d be quiet, so they would jump in,” Konohia-Williams said.
Day-Lee’s brother-in-law coaches her in softball, taking up the responsibility her father had.
Keoni wants to play college and eventually professional football, and Day-Lee has her sights on playing softball at the Olympics, as the sport will be re-added to the 2020 summer games in Tokyo.
Things have become easier, but the family continues to face some challenges today.
“I wish I could work day times, but the schedule I’m on works better, because I’m home with them longer on days they’re off school,” Konohia-Williams said. The current schedule is also better for scheduling appointments, she added.
Today, Keoni and Day-Lee continue to be enthusiastic about — and busy with — the sports their father introduced them to.
Though they had a break from school after Thanksgiving, Day-Lee left home for a Friday afternoon softball game in Waipio, and Keoni a basketball game in Kailua.
The family prioritizes their Christian faith and love of sports. Their “holiday miracle” is to eventually own a home with their own rooms, a big living room and kitchen and a lot of outdoor space. For 2020, they are hoping to save enough money to bring the whole family to Utah to watch the older brother play college football.
>> For Kayleen: Movie tickets, Christian movies, toiletries, queen-sized bedding. Favorite color: peach
>> For Keoni: Joggers with slits (L men), Vans shoes (10 men), duffle bag. Favorite color: royal blue
>> For Day-Lee: Softball equipment, Vans shoes (9 women), duffle bag. Favorite color: turquoise