WAILUKU Seventeen-year-old Saun-Shane "Ikaika" Suzuki fulfilled his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout on Saturday by finishing his final project, with the support of and earning the admiration of his fellow Boy Scouts and the Maui community.
A Boy Scout with a rare form of brain cancer and a prognosis of no more than three years to live, Suzuki was first featured in The Maui News on Feb. 6. Since then, he and his family have had an outpouring of financial and moral support from Scouts, family, friends and strangers.
Suzuki, a member of the Boy Scouts' prestigious Order of the Arrow, was diagnosed last fall. He was hospitalized on Oahu until January when he was allowed to return to his home in Pukalani. There he resides with a younger brother, Sky Morris, and his grandparents and guardians Robert and Cecelia "Cee" Morris.
Ikaika Suzuki, 17, keeps an eye on crews working to rebuild a damaged block wall near St. Anthony church.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
Suzuki's Boy Scout Troop 49 recently held a bake sale, raking in more than $5,000 in just a few hours. Proceeds of the sale were to help with Suzuki's medical expenses.
On Saturday, Boy Scout mom Malorie Arisumi was still filling a baked goods order from a stranger who read about Suzuki and wanted to give financial support.
"Everybody is so inspired by Ikaika," Arisumi said. "It's amazing how people are coming out, and they just want to give to him."
Troop 49 Scoutmaster Fred Ventura said Suzuki has been eyeing an Eagle Scout project for some time now. He had written up his preliminary plans prior to his cancer diagnosis but had been prevented from completing the project because of his illness.
With the approval of the Boy Scout Council, Suzuki had actually received his Eagle Scout award Feb. 20 at a Court of Honor. Usually, an Eagle candidate has to complete his project before receiving his award, but Scout officials accommodated Suzuki and his illness.
On Saturday, with the help of volunteer medics Kerri Mitchell and Doug Vant Groenewout, Suzuki was transported in an ambulance donated by American Medical Response to the site of his Eagle Scout project at the St. Anthony Church grounds.
Suzuki kept watch from a gurney as his fellow Scouts rebuilt a concrete rock wall that is 36 feet long and 41 inches high. The wall had been damaged five years ago by a motorist who ran off the road.
Suzuki got business donations for materials and coordinated, with Ventura and others' help, the manpower needed to get the job done. Nearly all of his Boy Scout troop and supporting adults came out to help.
Throughout the project, Ventura kept Suzuki abreast of the progress.
"Ikaika is an outstanding Boy Scout," Ventura said. "I've had to rein him in from time to time just like any boy his age, but he's a great young man."
Nik Hertz, Suzuki's neighbor and best friend since age 3, joined Troop 49 with Suzuki some seven years ago. "All this just shows how much courage he has and how much people are willing to support him," Hertz said. "It's like the whole island wants to help him out."
Suzuki also was joined at his Eagle Scout project by his great-grandmother Marie Young, of Kaneohe, Oahu, and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Kristin Hunter, of Kailua, Oahu. A Punahou School senior, Hunter said she flew over for the weekend to show her support for a project that means a lot to Suzuki.
"Just seeing him smile every day makes me feel optimistic," Hunter said. "He means everything to me."
Young said she wants to be with Suzuki as much as she can.
"I'm sure Ikaika must feel real good about all this support. It's unreal," she said.
Cee Morris was unable to attend the project because of her job, but she expressed gratitude to Maui's community on behalf of her family.
"We are so appreciative of everybody and their support," Morris said by phone. "So many people that have known us for a while and haven't kept in touch with are now back in touch and know why we haven't been in touch. So many people have come forth to help in prayer and support. . . . It's overwhelming and we're just very grateful."
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at email@example.com.