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Kaua`i Caregivers featured in Documentary "Sky Blossom"

During World War II, ground troops called paratroopers sky blossoms and when they saw the parachutes, the troops knew help was arriving.

That’s why filmmaker Richard Lui named his documentary about millennial and generation z military caregiving families “Sky Blossom.”

“This generation of caregivers is coming to help,” Lui said. “It’s symbolic because they are blossoming as people. They are blossoming as caregivers and that’s why I say they are the next greatest generation.”

The Kapanui family of Kauai is one of the five families profiled in the film. Kaleo Kapanui, who was 18 when the documentary was filmed, and his sister Kamaile care for their grandfather, Bobby Nawai, a veteran who has dementia. Kamaile put off college and Kaleo cut back on school and hanging out with fiends so they can watch and care for their grandfather.

 “School will always be here. Grandpa won’t,” Kamile Kapanui said in the film. She said she has a kuleana, responsibility, to take care of him.

“I value family,” Kaleo Kapanui said to explain his sacrifices to take care of his grandfather.

 Lui said he was inspired by the Kapanui siblings.   

“I found them to be a fantastic family,” he said. “They both left school to take care of their grandfather and didn’t think twice about it.”

Lui, an MSNBC weekend news anchor and AARP Caregiving Champion, can relate to their struggle. His father has dementia and he has made sacrifices in his career to care for him. Fortunately, his bosses at MSNBC allowed Lui to just work weekends in New York for the network. He flies back to San Francisco during the week to spend time with his father and to work with AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to raise awareness about caregiving.

“Sky Blossom” came about because of his work with all three organizations.

“I had no idea that I would be doing this. It started with me caring for my father and wanting to talk about it,” Lui said. When he first started caregiving, Lui realized he had to learn how to do it on his own, that most people do not think about caregiving until they need it or have to care for others.

“Sky Blossom” premiered on Veterans Day at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The film is not yet available on Netflix or other streaming services. But you should be available to see it at the virtual theatre Laemmle.com, which should qualify the film for consideration for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards. Variety Magazine named ‘Sky Blossom’ as a possible Oscar contender.

An Academy Award would be amazing. But Lui says his goal for the film is just as important – to help caregivers learn that they are not alone and that help is available. The film’s website skyblossom.com has links to resources and tips from AARP and other sponsors.

“I’m hoping that as soon as you watch this film, you want to learn more,” Lui said. “You’ll ask questions and you find an answer.”

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