HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The family of a UH football player severely injured in a diving accident earlier this month sent a meaningful mahalo to the UH team and Hawaii community.
Kalepo Naotala, 19, suffered a serious spinal cord injury after diving off an area commonly referred as "Waikiki Walls" near Kapahulu on July 1.
"The past two weeks have brought us a renewed sense of hope in Kalepo's future, and faithfulness in what God has in store for us as a family," the Naotala family said in a statement.
Since the event, Naotala has been receiving treatment at The Queen's Medical Center. But the family said Naotala's condition has improved enough to move him to Colorado soon for further rehabilitation.
The family said they feel "excited about what lies ahead" as they thanked the University of Hawaii, teammates, doctors and community church members for an outpouring of support surrounding Naotola.
"We can't forget the administration and Kalepo's teammates/brothers who tirelessly showed up at the hospital to support and encourage him," the family said.
Following the accident, UH football head Coach Nick Rolovich spoke about the incoming freshman's early impact on the team.
"He's really been the six-month poster child of 'living aloha' and 'playing Warrior,'" Rolovich said.
UH athletics said they will be setting up an account to collect donations to help the family with Naotala's long-term medical expenses.
Although the player and his family will be leaving Hawaii, they hope Naotala will be no stranger to the islands in the future.
"We can't wait to return to Hawaii with Kalepo leading the way so he can personally thank you for your love and support!" The family said.
Full statement from the Naotala family:
Words can't adequately describe the wave of emotions we have experienced as a family over the past six months. We have shed tears of joy (as Kalepo left home and began his career as a Rainbow Warrior) and tears of pain (as we cried out to the Lord when we heard of his accident). We have felt happiness (in hearing about how he has adjusted to life as a college student) and sadness (as we missed our eldest child interact with his siblings while away at college) but the past two weeks have brought us a renewed sense of hope (in Kalepo's future) and faithfulness (in what God has in store for us as a family).
Kalepo's physical condition – although delicate – has improved to the point where he is ready to be transferred to Colorado for the next phase of his rehabilitation and we are excited about what lies ahead.
As we get ready to leave Hawaii, first of all, we want to extend a heartfelt mahalo to the doctors, nurses & support staff at The Queen's Medical Center, who have cared for Kalepo over the past two weeks as if he were their own.
Next we want to thank the University of Hawaii for its support starting with Coach Rolovich and his staff. What a class act! A special thank you to Coach Legi and his wife Rose for their hospitality. We can't forget the administration and Kalepo's teammates/brothers who tirelessly showed up at the hospital to support and encourage him.
And finally to our church family at Calvary Chapel West Oahu and the people of Hawaii...much mahalo for your love and support. You have been amazing.
We know that God's plan for Kalepo has not changed...we have seen a supernatural outpouring of God's love and Grace extending from Hawaii to the Mainland…our God's love endures forever!!!
We can't wait to return to Hawaii with Kalepo leading the way so he can personally thank you for your love and support!!!
Mahalo & God Bless,
Tony & Shantell Naotala and Family