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, Dr. Frank Sayre, and his stepmother, Laura Mallery-Sayre, could only watch helplessly as multiple attempts to retrieve 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," recalled Laura. David Okita, the helicopter pilot, hovered his craft perilously over the site while two firefighters courageously rappelled into the heavily-forested canyon. The equipment they used was insufficient and very risky. "We decided that a memorial fund honoring the Hawaii County Fire Department was the best way to show our gratitude," said Frank. Each year, Frank and Laura, along with many volunteers, host an Awards Banquet to honor the year's outstanding fire/rescuers and to raise monies for much-needed equipment. The community has valiantly supported their cause with donations reaching $3,500,000. to date.
"In the memory of one lost life, others have been saved."
Suzanne Courtney, Daniel's mother, attended the 2015 Awards Banquet at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel on the Big Island, along with her sister, Diane. She is pictured here with David Okita and her former husband, Dr. Sayre. This was the first time she had been able to meet David, hug him, and personally thank him. "I had no words. My tears said it all," Suzanne recalled.