By Spc. Jesus J. Aranda, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs OfficeMarch 15, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - For nearly 60 citizens of the local western Oahu community the day began like any other-- each leaving home to their respective places of work just as they have on any other given day. These people, however, had more than this in common.
These people were on a wanted list and would soon be detained to pay for their ambition to donate.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association of Hawaii and the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club at Schofield Barracks joined forces March 4 at Waikele, Hawaii, to "apprehend" known supporters of the MDA for the west Oahu district's annual "MDA Lock Up" charity fundraiser.
A part of the Jerry's Kids charity, the MDA is a nation-wide charity foundation which seeks to raise money for children afflicted with muscular dystrophy (MD), as well as those seeking medical treatment and repairs to wheelchairs who otherwise could not afford the expenses. Each district on Oahu and neighboring islands hold the Lock Up event annually.
Serving as the judge was Audrey Hirayama, the executive director of MDA Hawaii West Oahu district, who picked up the gavel and donned a judge's robes. However, with the number of warrants issued for this year's Lock Up, Hirayama realized she would need extra assistance.
"We have turned to the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club because only they can bring these people in to justice," said Hirayama. "They have been volunteering to help for the past three years and we are so grateful for their help."
Hirayama and the MDA Hawaii called in the SAMC to venture out into the community to find the participants of the event and bring them in for sentencing.
The SAMC, an organization honoring the accomplishments of the World War II hero of the same name, is a collection of some of the U.S. Army's most combat-ready and tactical Soldiers-- a perfect task force for enforcing the warrants, according to Hirayama.
Among the volunteers was Sgt. 1st Class Brian Ash, Headquarters Support Company, an equal opportunity representative with the 25th Special Troops Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, who admitted to feeling excitement upon taking on the role of a lawman for charity.
"To be involved with the community for such a cause was great," said Ash. "We each went out to arrest these people, but everyone had fun. The people knew they would be a part of it and there were no surprises, just a few confused looks on the faces of coworkers."
The jail-themed "MDA Lock Up," an event organized annually in the local community for four years, brings charitable citizens together at a local restaurant for a free meal and a meet and greet with each 'convict's' peers.
Participants were charged with a demonstrated willingness to aid children with MD and related illnesses (each of the arraigned pleading guilty) and sentenced to confinement with bail.
"We set the price of bail at two thousand dollars and they all do their best to reach that goal," explained Hirayama. "Some even exceed the goal. Every little bit is a big help for the kids."
Though MDA accepts donations year-round, the Lock Up event relies primarily on word-of-mouth publicity and friend referrals for donations.
"We get a lot of friends turning in their friends to this event each year," said Hirayama.
One such person was Charlotte Liaga, a Wahiawa resident, who was referred to the Lock Up event by a friend.
"I was surprised," said Liaga. "I don't know who turned me in, but this was a good surprise."
The proceeds of the event go toward research into MD, as well as a summer camp program for children of Hawaii afflicted with MD.
"We take pride in our summer camp program," Hirayama said. "Every year we sent children with muscular dystrophy to camp at Camp Erdman on the North Shore."
Also taking pride in the event were the many "convicts."
"It feels good to get involved," said Trade Romualo, an MDA Lock Up "convict." "I normally see the charity events for MD on TV, but this time I get to get involved hands-on."
After the last convict had posted bail, this year's MDA Lock Up had raise almost $38 thousand for MD research and financial assistance.
"The MDA and the military working side-by-side for charity was fun for everyone involved," said Ash.
"This event means so much to the kids," said Nona Yim, a district administrative clerk for the MDA in Hawaii who has served the MDA for over 13 years. "To see the thankful families who may not have afforded medical aid or care without these donations is such a great thing."
Those interested in making a donation to the MDA or volunteering time should contact the MDA Hawaii's West Oahu district at (808) 593-4454 or on the web at Hawaii@mdausa.org.