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Local celebrity known for resemblance to Maui from ‘Moana’ appeals to community for help

Updated: Jan. 15, 2021 at 2:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 2018, William Vaana became an instant local celebrity for his striking resemblance to demigod Maui in the movie “Moana” and his powerful “chee-hoo.”

“Just to see the kids smile. They light up. They come screaming. It’s awesome,” he said at the time.

Vaana’s life changed dramatically in April 2019.

He suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with a rare brain disease called Moyamoya, in which blood vessels that supply blood to the brain are constricted.

“When they do MRIs, it shows an area of your brain. It just looks like a puff of smoke,” said Vaana’s sister, Leesa Vaana Fowler.

Fowler says simple movements are now a challenge for Vaana and he cannot speak.

“He’s not ready to speak until he can do the chee-hoo,” quipped Fowler.

“His vocal cords has been damaged because of the stroke and while he was intubated so it’s a work in progress. He’s doing a lot better. He can say two or three syllable words,” she added.

Vaana can communicate and with a thumbs up says he’ll feeling okay.

The family is trying to raise $30,000 for neurological equipment and an extra large hospital bed for his Maili home. They say the community support has been overwhelming.

“He gets very emotional. He’s not used to receiving. He’s so used to giving, sharing love and everything,” she said.

Vaana is determined to regain his strength and walk with pride again ― just like Maui.

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