Friends rally to help couple stricken with cancer


One diagnosis of cancer — or any serious illness for that matter — is daunting, but two cancer diagnoses in a matter of weeks is another thing.

That’s led Friends of Opiopio, a local nonprofit set up in February, to coordinate fundraising efforts to support humble community members Kaleo and Wendy Opiopio during their treatments.

Kaleo, at the start of the new year, received a diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer and his wife, Wendy shortly thereafter was diagnosed with breast cancer, said Opiopio family friend Jeremy Mandaguit, one of many helping coordinate the fundraising effort.

The couple has three children who attend local public schools. Kaleo is a well-known mechanic who operates the Pit Stop Auto Shop in the Old Kona Industrial Area.

West Hawaii Today was unable to reach Kaleo or Wendy for comment as of press time Thursday.

Mandaguit said he’s been a friend of Kaleo since about 1984 when they played Pop Warner football together in Kona.

They later graduated from Konawaena High School and even worked together at NAPA auto parts.

He described the family as “giving” — no matter the instance, the Opiopios are there to help. That characteristic, he said, is likely the reason why people in the community so quickly stepped up to help.

“Anytime when somebody needed help they will help them,” he said, referring to instances when Kaleo would help fix a car. “They are really giving people that always try to help.”

Mandaguit and co-coordinator Willi Lominario hope the support from the community will assist the Opiopio family while they take time off from work to recuperate from treatment. Treatment requires travel to Honolulu.

“If they’re not at work they can feel a lot less pressure and can instead focus on resting and recovering,” Mandaguit said.

Friends of Opiopio is collecting monetary donations as well as product donations to help alleviate some of the financial burden the family faces. Items given to the organization will be used in an auction or lucky number drawing to raise money.

“Everything — 100 percent of the proceeds — goes to the family,” Mandaguit.

On March 30, people are invited to take part in a benefit event for the Opiopio family at the Big Island Honda in Kona, located off Kuakini Highway. From noon to 6 p.m., the event will feature entertainment, a car show, food, a silent auction, lucky number drawings, jump castles and more.

For more information on Friends of Opiopio, visit the Facebook page or email the organization at friendsofopiopio@live.com. Additional questions or requests for a donation pickup can be directed to Jeremy at 937-5051 or Willi at 756-1570. Friends of Opiopio’s EIN tax ID number is 46-1984075.