Al Castle, Kū Kahakalau, and Calvin Sia recognized as inaugural Champions for Children

Award honors community leaders who have transformed the lives of children and families


HONOLULU, February 28, 2020 — Three community leaders who have transformed the lives of Hawaiʻi’s children and families will be recognized with the inaugural Champions for Children awards.

Al Castle, Kū Kahakalau, and Calvin Sia were selected by Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network to receive the first-ever Champions for Children awards, which will be presented at a dinner ceremony on March 12, 2020.

Al Castle was educated at Punahou and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Colorado State University. Mr. Castle was also trained at the University of New Mexico, the University of Virginia and Columbia University. He has written over 60 scholarly articles and three books. He spent 35 years as a college professor and university administrator, mainly on the mainland. For the past 23 years, Mr. Castle served as Executive Director of the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, one of America’s oldest family foundations. As such, he has led numerous initiatives on behalf of public and private preschools throughout the state. He is an avid promoter of high-quality early education and is responsible for bringing a variety of innovative teacher training opportunities to Hawaii. Mr. Castle is also a trustee of the Pettus Foundation in Saint Louis, Missouri, Colorado’s Martha S. Trimble Trust, and the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative in Washington, DC.

“The Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, with 180 years in Hawaii, has long served Hawaii’s early education. It is my great pleasure to work with HCAN to continue our additional work as an advocate for Hawaii’s keiki and to create a high-quality, accessible public-private early educational system,” said Castle.

Kū Kahakalau is the founder and former director of Kanu O Ka ʻĀina, the first Hawaiian-focused public charter school, located on Hawaiʻi Island. An award-winning educator, researcher, songwriter and Hawaiian language and culture expert, Dr. Kahakalau has been involved in indigenous, particularly Hawaiian, education and research for over 30 years. Her work has promoted the revitalization of Hawaiian language and culture, hands-on learning in the environment, community sustainability, food sovereignty, and Hawaiian self-determination in education and beyond using a Pedagogy of Aloha.

“When we immerse learners in an atmosphere of aloha and respect, when we engage them in authentic learning, solving real-world problems in our communities and make them understand their responsibilities as island residents and global citizens, education becomes relevant, it becomes real, exciting – and world-class, and to top it off, education becomes fun – as it should be!” said Dr. Kahakalau.

Calvin Sia​ is a pediatrician and lifelong advocate for children in Hawai’i and across the world. He started innovative programs in Hawaiʻi that have been adopted nationally and internationally. Among the many accomplishments, Dr. Sia revolutionized the quality of medical care for children by creating the concept of Family-Centered Medical Home with home visiting programs to prevent child abuse and neglect as part of this system of care. In addition, he co-founded Hawaii’s Zero to Three Program, a Healthy and Ready to Learn Center and Variety School for Learning Disabilities. He is still active in the community and is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Hawai’i John A. Burns School of Medicine.

“Let's take action now to help Hawaiʻi’s young children achieve their physical, mental, and social potential. Early learning begins in the critical first three years of life,” said Dr. Sia.

The awards will be presented at the Champions for Children dinner on March 12, 2020, from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. The event will be held at Mariposa at Neiman Marcus Ala Moana.

“Mr. Castle, Dr. Kahakalau, and Dr. Sia are amazing individuals who each have done so much for our keiki. We’re excited to honor them with our first ever Champions for Children awards,” said Deborah Zysman, Executive Director of Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network.

Proceeds from the dinner will benefit Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network. The public is invited to join the celebration by purchasing a ticket at

The event is supported by presenting sponsor Kamehameha Schools and sponsors Nakpuna Foundation/Na Alii Consulting & Sales, AlohaCare, Hawaiian Airlines, HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union, Kapiolani Medical Center, KCAA, and Locations Hawaiʻi.


Contact: Ryan Catalani
(808) 531-5502 ext. 4

Press kit with headshots and logos:

Please contact us to coordinate media availability for the awardees.


About Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network (HCAN): HCAN is a nonprofit creating a unified voice for Hawaiʻi’s children. Its grassroots movement strives to ensure that all keiki are safe, healthy, and ready to learn. For more information, visit

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