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Winning impossible battles one-by-one: that’s life

By Staff | Nov 10, 2011

All proceeds from the Nov. 19 event will benefit Olivia Bianco (front) and her family (from left): AJ, Alex, Momoko and Julia.

Imagine a disease that kills more than 278 out of every 1,000 Americans. Scary? Ratchet that down. Suppose it kills about 140 per 1,000. Still frightening. Improving medicine and care brings the number down to about 29. Whew! Good enough? Battle won? Not at all.

These numbers belong to 1850, 1900 and 1950. The number in 2003 was down to seven, and it’s not actually a disease. It’s infant mortality. In the past century-and-a-half, human effort has reduced fatalities in infancy by over 97 percent. What that means is obvious: parents among us cannot bear the loss of a child, and nothing is to be spared in the effort to reduce the incidence of such tragedies – nothing!

Figures are harder to work out for specific age groups, but it’s easy to see that age is not an issue. When an infant’s or toddler’s life is threatened, when the life of any child is at risk, any parents will brace themselves for whatever it takes to save each moment and day and year of the child’s life while fighting to end the threat altogether.

For one Maui family, that terror has been real for a while, but both hope and the child – the beautiful little Olivia Bianco – are winning battles, day by day.

“Olivia is six years old,” said Debbie Arakaki of West Maui Land Company. “She has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. She has gone to Santa Clara, California for surgery, spent months there and then on to Houston for another treatment with her parents by her side. If you would like to read about Olivia’s story from the beginning, go to visit caringbridge.org/visit/oliviabianco. Olivia is now back on Maui. Her next update is her MRI set for November 7th to see how the treatment has been responding. Olivia has two older siblings, Julia and AJ.”

Six and at risk.

The heart shouts to the brain. “There is something to be done. Do it. What can I do to help.”

Arakaki heard that call from her heart, just as Olivia’s parents did. She pulled in a few friends to bounce the ideas around, and they all came out with a plan to enjoy a beautiful dinner paired with some great wines down by the ocean in Olowalu. Chef Luis Fuentes from Island Catering and Dean and Carol Frampton from Sandwich Isle Cellars said, “Count us in.” Together, the plan for a six-course, sit down elegant dinner began to take shape.

Discussions with family friends Joel Navarro and Patrick Kilbride from Title Guaranty and Kay Ryan, another close family friend, formed the nucleus of the planning group to put the idea to action.

The wine pairing dinner is set for Saturday, Nov. 19, down by the ocean at the Olowalu Plantation House from 5:30 p.m.

The menu will include dishes such as Lobster-Mango Summer Rolls, Dungeness Crab Cakes, Lavender-honey Marinated Duck Breast, Seared Ahi, Mac Nut Crusted Rack of Lamb, Beef Tenderloin and dessert. Wines will center on the theme of the Pacific Rim wineries.

To make it even more of a fundraising event, many businesses and people have donated items for a silent auction. There will be boat cruises from Trilogy and Maui Princess; Olowalu Kayak Tours; dive trips from Lahaina Divers; Kahoma ATV rides; zipline tours; massages and spa treatments from Kapalua Spa and Maui Zen Day Spa; gift certificates from restaurants such as Lahaina Grill, Kimo’s, Leilani’s and Old Lahaina Luau; private yoga sessions; art pieces donated by the West Maui Animal Shelter and Jessica Pearl; jewelry; designer clothing pieces from Maggie Coulombe; a silk sarong from Sarongs Plus; fresh eggs for a year from Theo Morrison; teeth whitening from Dr. Glenn Kadohiro; and so much more.

One-hundred percent of all the monies raised from the auction will go directly to the Bianco family to help them with medical and living expenses.

You can still get tickets. The deadline to RSVP is Nov. 12, and tickets are $150. We are capping the count at 100 people, so don’t wait! What do you get for your money? You get the certain knowledge that you have helped relieve the anguish of a family that doesn’t yet see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s huge. This is not faceless charity, not a gift to a service organization that will help someone you will never know by name or face. This is a precious little girl, one of our Maui neighbors in peril and her family in distress.

“This event is our way of helping out the family,” Arakaki said, “and a chance to show them that the community is here for them. It’s a fun evening planned with great food, wine and friends.”

Tickets are available by contacting Debbie Arakaki at (808) 283-7214/Debbie@WestMauiLand.com or Kay Ryan at 665-0981/Kay@MauiKay.com.