Kids whose lives have been upended by lava find an escape in Summer Fun

Kids whose lives have been upended by lava find an escape in Summer Fun

PAHOA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the Pahoa Summer Fun basketball clinic, kids can be kids.

And that's never been more valuable for the kids of Pahoa — whose lives have been upended by ongoing eruptions in lower Puna.

Some of the children in the program have lost their homes. Others say their homes are under threat.

Out of the 35 kids that showed up for the clinic Wednesday, about 15 were evacuees.

Among them: 11-year-old Victor Fernandez. He said the lava continues to flow dangerously close to his Leilani Estates home.

"It had a wraparound porch, ocean view," said Fernandez. "It was really pretty. Had a bunch of flowers."

He added that the eruptions "kind of changed my summer."

Coach Tagipo Maui said seeing the kids go through so much — and remain so resilient — has moved him.

"It kind of hit me hard because it's personal," he said.

In Leilani Estates, 10 weeks after the eruptions started, the landscape appears almost alien.

A vigorous lava channel continues to cut through the subdivision as it makes its way to the sea. Cooled, black lava covers hundreds of acres. And land not blackened by lava is brown, full of vegetation that's dead or dying.

Pahoa District Park recreation Director Ranson Yoneda said when families are under stress, kids are under stress.

And the last 10 weeks have been especially stressful for the families of Leilani Estates.

"Going through everything, seeing the stress their parents are going through," she said,  "coming to Summer Fun gets their minds off things."

She added, "They just have fun."

Maui said kids like Fernandez are inspiring, too.

"Just his strength of being here, him playing like there's nothing bothering him, it gives me strength," he said.

"It's a strong community because of these kids."

As for Fernandez, he's just happy to be spending some time with his friends.

"That helps me not think about what's going on," he said. "The lesson I learned from all of them is just to keep on pushing and don't give up."

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