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A word from our Executive Director…

Photo courtesy of Sara Tekula

Photo courtesy of Sara Tekula

Play it Forward

There is a quote I like. “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know its part of a tree.”

We cannot move forward from this moment which will soon be part of history without first looking back. Imua Family Services was founded by Margaret Cameron in 1947. Originally the Maui Branch of the Hawaii Chapter of the National Society of Crippled Children and Adults.  Who provided physical therapy to those who suffered the crippling effects of polio. Later the agency became known as Easter Seals Society and for more than 20 years operated out of a small wood frame cottage behind the old Kaunoa School in Spreckelsville. Speech and occupational therapy services were added to the program shortly after it began. In 1973 the agency moved to the J. Walter Cameron Center in Wailuku and have been there since that time. At the time , the agency was the only physical therapy facility on Maui. Audiology services were expanding and being initiated into the programs. 1n 1976 Volunteers led by Penny Elkins organized a recreational summer camp project for school aged children with disabilities and special needs. A one week camp known as Camp Imua.  The local agency was incorporated as The Society for Crippled Children and Adults of Maui County and became a member of Maui United Way in 1979. In 1991 the name was changed to Imua Rehab. The agency continued to grow throughout the years. The boards of Directors and the agency staff have endeavored to offer quality preventative, rehabilitative and life-enhancing services for children while growing and evolving to meet the Maui community’s changing needs. This is evidenced by the agency’s name change to Imua Family Services in 2003. And today we have many partners in our work and services to children in the field of Early Learning including:

  • The Hawaii State Department of Health
  • The Hawaii State Department of Education
  • The County of Maui
  • University of Hawaii Maui College
  • Maui Memorial Medical Center
  • Good Beginnings Alliance, Maui United Way, Hawaii Community Foundation, Ho`oikaika Partners, Steps Team, Maui County Early Childhood Coordinator, Executive Office of Early Learning, MEO Headstart, Early Intervention Collaborative Team, Public Health Nursing, Dept. of Health Special Needs Branch, Community Clinics, Pediatricians, PATCH, Catholic Charities of Hawaii, Child Welfare Services, various community infant toddler and early childhood programs and our many partners within Maui’s nonprofit community.

I have the privilege of keeping very old and very dear documents in my office so I can reference Imua’s vast history in my work today. I want to reference a letter typed in July 26, 1950 – (Read Letter)

This Play Group which began in 1950 is an active part of today’s programing at Imua Family Services. Our Infant Child Development Program has PTG Parent and Toddler Group – up to 22 children at a time, and their parents or caregivers engage in the play group on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursday mornings from 9:30 to 11am.  And PLAY Imua a play group for our Early Childhood Development Program is held every other Saturday.

Imua’s professional s and therapists transform play into a lifetime of potential.

On any given day, babies, toddlers, preschoolers, parents, siblings and others are hard at play with Imua’s therapeutic professional staff. Play therapy is a fun way for children to learn how to communicate, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn ways of relating to others.

Play is how young children learn. It is through play that they experience feeling and connecting, sensing and moving, listening and talking, thinking and remembering. Play is important for every child, but it is vital therapy for a young child with special needs. To acknowledge this TODAY Imua announces its new tag line – which comes with a 67 year history! Play it Forward.

Today Imua Family Services provides early childhood development services to families with the comprehensive therapy, support and resources needed to achieve their full potential in life. Each year, nearly 3000 community members on Maui and Lanai receive support from Imua Family Services through the Newborn Hearing Screening which began in 1993, Infant Child Development Program since 1973, the only agency in the State of Hawaii to provide an Early Childhood Development Program for children age 3 – 6 since 2007, and Camp Imua since 1976 which today runs at full capacity, with expanded camp services to children with hearing impairments. In 2014 Camp Imua will include a special camp for children with Autism and Down Syndrome. Today I am proud to announce that since 1947 Imua Family Services has served over 100,000 children through our combined programs!

 Today because Imua Family Services is a forward thinking, moving and growing nonprofit agency, we have taken a lead and great strides in how we communicate to our Millenial Parents who use our services, through todays ways to connect through Social Media – Imua Family Services relates and builds relationships through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Linkden, Flickr and manages our own WordPress website in house with interactive blogging. So today we thought we would unveil Imua’s most exciting new launch into instant access to our agency and its services. Imua Family Services is available now through in a Mobile App through Itunes and Iphone App stores, Google for Android and Amazon App Store for all smart phones for Free. A  service that will be given to every family receiving services at Imua Family Services and all our friends and supporters. Information on how to locate and download the free app will be made available on all our social media platforms after today. I think it is safe to say Imua may be the only Early Childhood Program in the State of Hawaii with a mobile app and maybe the first nonprofit on Maui.

So now let’s look to the Future of Imua Family Services!

While the J. Walter Cameron Center has been a tremendous home to Imua Family Services since 1973. Our agency and the growing need for programs no longer fit into its walls. We are thrilled to join forces with a lifelong partner of Imua Family Services, Easter Seals of Hawaii and join together to create what will be a remarkable state of the art campus for Early Childhood Development and Training Center the Future of Imua Family Services! Together with Easter Seals this campus through our combined programs will provide special care and treatment for Maui’s community from Birth through Life.

Since Imua opened in 1947, Maui’s population has increased by 226 percent. Despite this explosive growth, Imua remains the principal provider of family support services for special needs children on Maui and Lanaʻi.  Since 1950, autism has become the fastest-growing developmental disability with an astounding 1,148 percent growth rate.  Studies are finding the 1 in 53 children are being diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. As a result, Imua has outgrown its 35-year home at the J. Walter Cameron Center and must relocate to a larger facility capable of serving its current and future needs.

To give you a hint of some of the ways in which our programs will grow through this new center, let me give you an imaginary tour.

  • Resource and Classroom
  • Conference Room and Training Center, for staff development, therapists training, board development, Imua’s Early Childhood Development Conferences, American Sign Language Classes and support groups.
  • A child friendly waiting room with activity area for children waiting for appointments.
  • Three State of the Art Therapy Rooms with Observation Windows for training interns, parents and therapists. One of these room especially designed for Sensory Training and development.
  • And of course our Parent and Toddler Group therapy Room and state of the art Inclusion Preschool Program which will incorporate children with special needs with a mix of typically developing preschoolers. The Preschool will be used as a training center for all of Maui’s preschool teachers. With an adjoined ADA child’s playground.
  • Upstairs are offices for our growing staff who are the most dedicated individuals that I know serving Maui Communities children our staff includes over 28 professional therapists, 60% with Masters Degrees and 14% who have a Phd.

I hope this gives you a glimpse of our near future. A future made possible by these following individuals, foundations and companies which I need to recognize.  First and foremost I want to thank and recognize:


  • Easter Seals Hawaii for you extension of aloha and invitation to include Imua Family Services in this exciting campus
  • Imua Family Services Board of Directors who I have the privilege of working with, Mahalo for your Vision for this organizations future. I am proud to say that we have 100% financial board commitment for this capital campaign with combined commitments of over $14 thousand dollars.
  • The dedicated, talented and highly skilled staff of Imua Family Services who are committed to serving Maui communities children and families every day through play. The Play it Forward!
  • Mayor Alan Arakawa and the County of Maui, when I first was approached by Easter Seals, the Mayor’s office was the first place I headed, he offered me his time, sound advice, and deep support for this project for Imua Family Services and the Maui County Council followed through with their line item support of this project of $200,000.
  • Easter Seals Hawaii and Imua Family Services together are committed to receive a Grant In Aid of $975,000 half of that is dedicated to this project – so thanks goes to the State of Hawaii and to ESH for making this a part of our combined reality.
  • A major supporter, board member, close friend and powerful woman who is not unfamiliar with traumatic situations when it comes to having a child. Susan Moultan who was the first foundation to step forward with $150,000.  To name our Inclusion playground after her son who died here on Maui, Will Smith.
  • Mahalo to Susan Bendon and the Bendon Family Foundation who has continued to support Camp Imua for many years and stepped forward with $50,000 for this Capital Campaign.
  • On the same day a local business Emerald Club Reality, JoAnn Aki wrote a check for $10,000 for our child friendly waiting room area.
  • And to our good friends and good friends of the community, First Hawaiian Bank who came to this project with $25,000. And who annually has supported our Roy’s Golf Tournament for 16 years.

While we are past the half way mark of our total goal of $1.9 M with pending grant proposals whom we anxiously await to hear from. This brings us to the final stages of our Capital Campaign which is often referred to as the FriendRaising – it’s when the opportunity from the community, friends, family, ohana can contribute their gifts great and small because they want to be a part of a building of a  brighter future for Maui Keiki. Community gifts have already started to come in, some gifts of 50.00, 100.00, 500. And 1000. And we are ever so thankful and hope that these gifts will fill our remaining gap and help us fulfill our dream.

You can Play it Forward by helping to build a new home where young children can fulfill their full potential in life.

We are ready. We have the vision, the plans, the permits and much our funding in hand. But we need your support to build a special home that will give our youngest, most precious citizens the jump-start they need to succeed.

Your generous gift to help build the Imua Family Services Early Childhood Development Training Center is an investment that will yield benefits for generations. Thank you for helping to make our opening in 2014 grand! And I ask now that you will join with me now in proclamation and say with me Play it Forward!

-Dean Wong, Executive Director