On Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 we will give 20% of our sales to The Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation in celebration of #GivingTuesday. The foundation provides essential equipment and training to the Hawaii Island Fire Department who serves the Hawaii community. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.
"In the memory of one lost life, others have been saved."
In late August 1997, Daniel Sayre set off for the 500-foot Kapaloa Falls in the back of Pololu Valley on the rugged north shore of the Big Island.
The 25-year-old wanted photos of his “cathedral” to take with him back to college on the mainland. But that all changed in an instant when he fell off the trail, plummeting hundreds of feet onto a rocky ledge near the falls.
He was lying there motionless when a rescue team from the Hawaii County Fire Department joined his parents in the search. After 10 hours of trying to reach him through the dense forest and steep cliff walls via helicopter, the mission was called off. But Frank Sayre and Laura Mallery-Sayre refused to leave a nearby lookout without knowing if their son was dead or possibly just unconscious.
The rescue crew members volunteered to continue working. They lacked ropes long enough to rappel, so their only option was a risky helicopter maneuver like one that had killed a search team two years earlier on Oahu.
They were finally able to maneuver close enough to drop off two fire rescue specialists, who were suspended from a cable attached to the helicopter.
“It was so tight that the prop wash was knocking leaves off the trees in the valley,”
The rescue team arrived to find Daniel had died. They radioed the news to his parents before loading his body onto a rescue litter harness attached to the helicopter. They flew the body out of the valley and the Sayres went to the hospital to identify their son.
“We knew they were putting their lives on the line for Dan,” Laura said. “How do you thank someone for that?”
During their grieving, they also wondered why the Fire Department did not have ropes long enough to rappel into the island’s deep valley, a safer option than using a helicopter in some circumstances.
“Why on earth did they not have the rappelling ropes?” Laura said. “These canyons and valleys have been here for thousands of years.”
She and her husband decided to buy two sets of rappelling ropes for the county — one for the Hilo side on the east and one for the Kona side on the west — at about $1,500 apiece.
And so began the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation, which just marked its 21st anniversary this fall at the annual dinner that Laura and Frank put on to honor the year’s most outstanding emergency responders and raise money for equipment and training beyond what’s included in the Fire Department’s budget.
The Sayres have been astonished by what the lifeguards and firefighters have needed over the years — things they had assumed the county already provided. Sunscreen, for instance, new board shorts, weatherproof coats, communication equipment and other relatively inexpensive items. But also, bigger ticket items, like refurbishing a rescue boat.
To date, the foundation has raised more than $1.5 million to benefit firefighters, rescue personnel and — especially in recent years — lifeguards.
“It’s a drop in the bucket to what they really need, but it has helped,” Laura said.
The department’s “wish list” has only grown over time. Its most recent requests totaled $84,000, but the foundation has been able to help meet the need each year.
“There’s all these things that they’re doing that we don’t know about until something happens,” Frank said.
Laura has stated that without the community embracing their mission, they would not have recognized the success that they have.
For the past 21 years, Laura & Frank turned what was a devastating mess in their lives into their message. And for that, many lives have been saved and will continue to be saved…
Mahalo to Laura and Frank Sayre, The Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation, and Civil Beat for the content above.
CONTRIBUTOR: KELLY DRYSDALE
FAVORITE BOOK: "To Kill a Mockingbird". Atticus Finch is one of my heroes. He stood up for what is right even in the face of adversity.
BEST PLACE IN KONA: "The Spot"...that's all I'm saying...shhhhhhhhhhh!!
I came to Kona Coffee & Tea having worn a multitude of hats throughout my career. Now I'm the Director of Logistics for Kona Coffee & Tea. I spent 15 years in Sports Television, coming into contact with many well-known names but none that left the lasting impression as that of Howard Cosell. Cosell, an attorney turned sports commentator, was also an English major and a grammatical genius. It was from this highly intelligent man that my love of words came to be. Now known as the "Wordsmith" for Kona Coffee & Tea, I edit whatever comes across my desk. I also enjoy representing this AWESOME, Family-owned and operated company.