In the spring of 2001, the Molokai High School baseball team was the two-time defending state champion.
The Farmers needed a $25,000 donation from an anonymous source to complete that season and the rest of their spring sports due to lack of travel money.
Now, second-year Molokai athletic director Hoku Haliniak is facing a $40,000 shortfall in the travel budget for the 2013-14 academic year.
‘The community of Molokai, no matter what, will help when it concerns the kids. Anything to do with the kids, they will find a way.’
– Molokai athletic director Hoku Haliniak
"It's not a new problem," Haliniak said Tuesday. "All I know is that the community of Molokai, no matter what, will help when it concerns the kids. Anything to do with the kids, they will find a way."
Last year, Haliniak had money left over from the statewide "Save Our Sports" program that ended a few years ago. Due to increased participation - more than half of the 350-student school competes in at least one sport - Haliniak had to use most of the SOS funds last year.
With the help of a fence built around its football field by the agricultural company Monsanto, the school will charge for admission to eight-player football games this season. Baseball and softball will also charge for the first time.
Football tickets are $6 for adults, while baseball and softball admission will cost $5. Rates will be reduced for military members, senior citizens and students.
"Last year just volleyball and basketball alone, we brought in about $12,000," Haliniak said. "Hopefully we can match or double it."
Molokai receives $15,000 from the state for athletics. The school's travel budget this year, before factoring in state tournaments, is $79,000, slightly higher than last year.
Haliniak has calculated that 762 round-trip tickets are needed for ferry trips, at $106 apiece - an increase of $3 from last year and $8 from two years ago. Last year, the Farmers needed less than 600 ferry tickets.
The state Department of Education cut athletic budgets by 25 percent in 2009, and that money has not been replaced.
"It is not us only us who are struggling, I know the Maui schools are, too," Haliniak said. "Everybody is struggling."
DOE schools receive athletic money on a per-capita basis, though the Maui Interscholastic League gets a dispensation for having to travel to Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
"It is tough, the state gives us some special funding and all of the special funding that comes to the MIL, the athletic directors voted about four years ago that Molokai and Lanai get all of it," MIL executive director Joe Balangitao said. "The bulk of it goes to Molokai and the rest goes to Lanai. It is not enough to cover it."
Lanai AD Roderick Sumagit estimates his travel budget at about $50,000 and said his school gets about $10,000 per year from the MIL.
Balangitao's SOS fund for the MIL is four years old and has raised approximately $25,000 per year.
"We have just been surviving, basically," Balangitao said. "We are unique, we have a league and we have to go to three islands. It's just the way it is."
Last season, eight Molokai teams qualified for state tournaments, an expense that is not accounted for in the budget. Food money on the road is also not in the budget.
"My total cost last year was almost $108,000, including state (tournaments)," Halini-ak said. "I think us, in the entire state, has the biggest (travel budget)."
Round-trip ferry tickets to Maui cost Lanai athletics about $40 apiece. A trip from Lanai to Molokai involves two ferries and takes five hours.
"Expeditions (ferry company) has given us a great group rate," Sumagit said. "One of the problems is it costs me about $80 more per person when we have to go to Molokai rather than going to Maui."
The Pine Lads may soon add eight-player football, but their football field does not have a fence, making it difficult to charge admission.
"Our community is so generous, we will find a way to get to a state tournament," Sumagit said. "We are also limited on any preseason games because of the cost to get off-island. When we add more sports, the pieces of the pie get broken up into even smaller pieces."
Lanai has approximately 2,500 residents.
"Everybody is trying to fundraise themselves, wheather it is Pop Warner, Little League, softball or Lanai High School," Sumagit said. "It's a small community, so everybody gets hit for that over and over again."
Halinak coached boys volleyball for 10 years on Oahu, at Roosevelt and McKinley, and was a sports information director at the University of Hawaii-Hilo.
"I thought I was the fund-raising queen until I came to this island," she said. "Here you have to be really, really creative."
Molokai hosted a nonleague girls volleyball tournament in August, is starting an athletics store and may hold an athletics carnival. The school will also celebrate its 75th anniversary this year.
An offer to host a lau lau booth at the Maui Fair had to be turned down because Haliniak had trouble finding a certified kitchen. Monsanto donates corn for concessions at games.
Haliniak is aware of the donation that arrived anonymously 12 years ago.
"If I have a fairy godmother or fairy godfather, heck yeah, I'll take them," she said.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com