In 1997, 25-year-old Danny Sayre hiked to the back of Pololu Valley on the Big Island, near Kapaloa Falls, to visit the place he called his "cathedral." Tragically, that visit was Danny's last.
His devastated parents, Frank Sayre and Laura Mallery-Sayre, could only watch helplessly, as multiple attempts to rescue their son's body from a 500-foot fall to the valley floor below, failed. "That's when three men from the Fire Department volunteered to move forward with the mission, knowing that they were putting their own lives in danger," recalls Laura. The rescue occurred in such a narrow and densely forested location that tree limbs were shredded by the helicopter's rotors as two firefighters courageously plumetted into the canyon to retrieve Daniel's body, steps from Kapaloa.
"We decided that a memorial fund honoring the Hawaii County Fire Department was the best way to show our gratitude," says Frank. Seventeen years later, Frank and Laura have organized sixteen annual ceremonies that honor heroes within the department, like the men who personified bravery and compassion in one of their darkest hours. The community has valiantly supported their cause with donations exceeding 1 million dollars, which are used exclusively to purchase rescue equipment required by the Fire Department. In the memory of one lost life, others have been saved.