“Mahalo for Your Kokua” -- SMES Football Serves Others in Hawaii

Before the start of the school year, members of the St. Margaret’s varsity and junior-varsity football teams traveled to Hawaii to open their season.
Sounds like a fun football trip, and it was—yet it was much more.
The Tartans practiced each day on the island, with the JV team playing its game on Aug. 19 against Kealakehe High School (winning 27-6) and the varsity playing two days later against Hawaii Prep Academy (winning 41-7). Away from the football field, the team reached out to the local community on the Big Island and dedicated an ample amount of time to service, all while learning more about the people who call the islands home and their rich and storied Hawaiian culture.
“We encourage all our athletic programs to engage in community service projects away from the playing field,” St. Margaret’s Director of Athletics and Physical Education Patrick Bendzick said. “The trip to Hawaii was a great opportunity for our student-athletes to serve a community outside of their own. It showed them that the service aspect at St. Margaret’s follows them everywhere they go.”
The varsity team spent a day at St. James Episcopal Church in Waimea helping out around the church property, clearing brush, scraping paint off siding, pulling weeds, washing windows and cleaning out a storage shed.
“To be with my teammates and help others like that was so fulfilling,” senior Logan Smith said. “It felt great to be able to give back.”
The next day, JV players went to St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Paauilo, part of the St. James congregation, and used their manpower toward tackling different projects the church needed, from clearing sugar cane overgrowth to setting up a fence to helping to extract tree stumps.
“They were amazing,” said Susan Acacio, Coordinator of Youth Ministries for St. James’ Episcopal Church. “They showed up here after football practice and were full of energy. They really accomplished a lot. And I was so impressed with how polite and helpful they were.
“They just kind of swooped in, worked really hard and left a beautiful footprint behind.”
After Saturday’s varsity game, the Tartans joined Hawaii Prep for a postgame meal, then went to Kawaihae Harbor and took part in St. James’ Saturday evening beach mass. There, Father David Stout thanked the St. Margaret’s players for their service, calling them “60 angels from across the sea.” The players were presented with leis during the beach mass that had a message—“Mahalo for your Kokua” which is Hawaiian for “Thank you for your assistance.”
In the end, the trip to Hawaii was more than a chance to play football outside of Southern California—it was also a fulfilling way to learn from and connect with a different community, and make an impact away from home.
“The service aspect of it was my favorite part of the trip,” St. Margaret’s Football Coach Stephen Barbee said.  “I wanted the kids to leave part of themselves on the island. Football is a great sport, but more than that, it’s a great vehicle to teach life lessons.”
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California