5 Hawaii Humanitarians Win Statewide Jefferson Award

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Five Hawaii humanitarians are chosen to receive the 2007 Jefferson Award for the state of Hawaii.  This year's winners, selected from a pool of 12 volunteers for the Jefferson Award are: Dr. Ramon Sy, Loretta Sheehan, Masaichi Tasaka, Rachel Ariola and Russell Chun.

The recipients will be recognized at a lunch on Wednesday at the Pacific Club. There, one person will be chosed to represent this state at the national ceremonies in Washington. HE or she will go to Washington , D.C. in June, to compete with nominees from the other 49 states for 5 national awards.

The 34 year old award is prestigious. Previous honorees include first ladies Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter; former secretary of state Colin Powell; entertainer Bob Hope; and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Here in Hawaii, 74 year old Dr. Ramon Sy is one of the 5 local honorees. He was chosen because he co-founded Aloha Medical Mission, a group of volunteers who spread aloha and medical services around the globe. Sy has been on as many as four missions a year to places like the Philippines, Myanmar , Vietnam, China , Laos and Cambodia.

Butch Dela Cruz, Aloha Medical Mission s executive director, nominated Sy for the award because "he brought the organization from a small group of doctors to something that is well known around the world. We've now helped nearly 200,000 patients in 11 countries."

AMM's tally is 75 overseas trips, 190,000 patients, and 9,000 surgeries in nearly a quarter century. Sy calls it "fun work" that rewards both the patient and the doctor. "It's great to help others," Sy says.

Currently, Aloha Medical Mission volunteers are in Micronesia on a prescedent setting mission. It's unique in that AMM has teamed up with the Polynesian Voyaging Society to raise the health and living standards for Micronesians.