Kupuna Transitions

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A crew from a mainland filming company in San Francisco work on a short clip on KC Stallsmith working with Kameichi Yawata at CrossFit Allstar in Waimea. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
A member of the film crew works with KC Stallsmith and Kameichi Yawata at CrossFit Allstar in Waimea. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)
Kelsey Owens of CrossFit Allstar helps Kupuna CrossFit member Betsy Kansaku with a lift as KC Stallsmith looks on during the filming. Also part of Kupuna CrossFit is Chiyoko Pai. (PHOTO BY LISA M. DAHM| NHN)

I turned on our recording of the CrossFit Games on July 25 with a sense of hope that I’d see something familiar. Our contact at CrossFit headquarters had said that we’d see the commercial about our Kupuna CrossFit feature on ESPN and shortly after they would release the feature. So with a heart full of hope I watched until I saw a glimpse of the most gentle face that I’ve ever loved. It was Kameichi Yawata, one of our clients at Ho’oNani Place.

I yelled out with excitement and the clients all looked up at me from their bingo game like I was a crazy woman. My eyes filled with tears of joy and my skin was covered with goose bumps as I watched the short 30 second segment which highlighted KC Stallsmith, CrossFit AllStar owner, sharing her belief in the abilities and value of our kupuna.

The segment ends with a shot of the North Hawaii News article that was written about Kameichi’s 100th birthday which was exactly six months earlier. There is a picture of KC as she presented Kameichi with her gift for him, a CrossFit AllStar baseball cap. She didn’t know I was snapping the picture. Yet there it was on ESPN, speaking volumes about the dynamic relationship that those two have with each other, along with the support we all have from our community.

I insisted they put their poker chips down and walk over to the TV room. It took a minute for them to process that this was national television, and once they realized the magnitude of the moment, they started clapping with great big smiles to match my own. I asked Kameichi what he thought of being on ESPN, and he said, “Unbelievable.”

Kameichi is a very quiet, humble man with a subtle sense of humor that makes us laugh daily. He’s a centenarian and an inspiring athlete who could have given up years ago, believing that he was just finishing up the final chapter of his life story. Instead, at 98 years old he decided to give our day program a try. He enjoyed himself so much that he decided to come full time. At 99 he figured he’d give CrossFit a try. His strength and endurance inspired CrossFit headquarters so much that they contacted KC and asked to do a documentary on her innovative program. Now, at 100 1/2, he is a TV star. At least to us he is.

Kameichi’s story just goes to show that you never know what your next chapter has in store for you. Your opportunities are endless and you are in a position to add new characters, locations and story lines anytime you choose. It simply takes giving new things a try and doing your best. Like Kameichi says, “If I can do it, you can do it.”

Karyn Clay has a BA in Gerontology from SDSU and has been caring for older adults in a variety of programs for the past 20 years. She operates Ho’oNani Place, Waimea’s Adult Day Care Center, which she established in 2002.