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Kaikua and his family pose for a photo with ABRP students and faculty at the Make-A-Wish reveal event.

Auto Body Repair and Painting students help make a wish come true

A 17-year-old Kurtistown resident who suffers from kidney disease and complications from treatment had his wish granted by Make-A-Wish Hawaii and a team of partners on Sunday, Dec. 5. Key members of that team were about a dozen Hawai‘i Community College Auto Body Repair and Painting (ABRP) students. 

Kaikua, the Make-A-Wish recipient, wished to have his family’s 2008 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck restored. With support from Par Hawaii, Make-A-Wish orchestrated an overhaul of the truck that included major upgrades to the suspension from Top Notch Automotive, a new sound and alarm system from Car Stereo Specialists, and body work and a paint job from students in the Hawai‘i Community College ABRP program. 

The big reveal took place Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 outside the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo. After Kaikua and his family arrived to a cheering, sign-waving crowd, the truck was driven into view from its hiding place and the keys were presented to Kaikua. 

Kaikua was thrilled with the outcome and complemented the students. 

“I’m so grateful that they did it,” said Kaikua. “It came out really, really good. And to all those that did ‘em, they’re all legends.”

The reveal was the culmination of long hours in the ABRP shop where students stayed as late as 3 a.m. to make sure the project was done on time and done well. 

Kyren Martins, a Hawai‘i CC student who worked on the truck, said the project felt really important because the truck was for someone about the same age as him who was going through such a big challenge.

“It was kind of emotional,” Martins said. “Honestly, it was stressful at times but in the end it really came to us and we wanted to do everything to the best of our ability. That’s why we took so much pride and enjoyed every ounce of it. It just meant something very special to us.” 

The students did everything from the initial evaluation to repairing the body panels, the bed, the tailgate and replacing fasteners. When the time came, they painted the truck Toyota’s cement grey color and gave it a twist by adding on top of that a sunbeam gold pearl midcoat followed by a clear coat and a ceramic coating to protect it all. 

The ABRP program offers associate degrees that train students to work in collision repair and other related fields. The two professors in the program, Garrett Fujioka and Colby Koreyasu, are both alumni and worked in the industry before returning to teach. 

Fujioka said it was a really valuable experience for the students that tested their knowledge on an important project. 

“It’s a big experience for them, because they can work together in teams, they see the goal they want to reach, and there is a deadline,” said Fujioka. 

The collaboration with Top Notch and Car Stereo Specialists opened students’ eyes to all the career possibilities in their field, said Koreyasu.  

“I’ve heard a lot more talk from the students about avenues of entrepreneurship, employment and apprenticeship,” said Koreyasu. “I think it just adds to their passion for the automotive industry.”