An 84-year-old supporter of veterans on Maui and an 83-year-old volunteer at Hale Mahaolu's elder housing facility, Home Pumehana, on Molokai were named this year's winners of the Outstanding Older American Awards.
Fred Ruge and Kanee Wright were honored at the 46th annual awards ceremony May 6 at the Maui Beach Hotel.
Ruge, a Korean War veteran, has been helping veterans through his leadership, fundraising, providing transportation to appointments and guidance through the challenging path to Veterans Affairs benefits. His accomplishments include lobbying to expand the Makawao Veterans Cemetery, helping create jobs for returning Afghanistan veterans, preventing veterans suicides, extending his helping hand to the homeless, and helping the poor as a Salvation Army holiday bell ringer.
Outstanding Older American winners Fred Ruge and Kanee Wright pose at the awards luncheon May 6 at the Maui Beach Hotel.
County of Maui / RYAN PIROS photo
Wright, who brings "a smile with her everywhere she goes," keeps busy by cleaning Home Pumehana's windows, screens, tables and chairs. She also runs errands for the kitchen, office and maintenance shop and delivers meals to the island's frail and homebound seniors.
Judges for this year's awards were Audrey Rocha Reed, director of Heritage Hall; Ronna Patty, public health nurse; Cesar Gaxiola, executive director of the Cameron Center; Scott Seto, executive director of the Adult and Community Care branch of the Department of Human Services; and Sandy Freeman, executive director of Maui Adult Day Care Centers.
Other nominees for the award were Louise Corpuz, Penny Dearborn, Sally Gospodarek, Barbara Kennedy, Kathleen Ordonez, Patsy Ponce, Tom Leuteneker and John Tryggestad.
Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions and to provide them with information to help them stay healthy and active. This year's theme, "Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow," highlights injury prevention. Unintentional injuries result in millions of medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year.