‘Ohana’ means no one gets left behind
Makani grew up in Hawaii in an adoptive family of six children, which included his brother, cousin and three other boys. All of the children suffered abuse in the home that continued after the family moved to Arizona. At age 18, Makani courageously took action to protect his siblings and stop the abuse, then stepped in to become their caregiver so they would not continue to be separated in the child welfare system.
Makani was a full-time student and football player at the University of Arizona when he offered to create a home for all the children. Brianna Summers, who started dating Makani in high school in Hawaii, moved to Arizona to support the family. Together they cared for the younger siblings and secured needed treatment for one of the children.
With assistance from Casey Family Programs, they found extended family members who wanted to help care for the family. A couple adopted one child, their great-niece. And another couple became parents to two others. Makani and Brianna married in 2014 and adopted the other two children.
“Family is definitely important to us, especially coming from Hawaii,” says Brianna. “Everyone talks about ‘ohana’ here. And family means that no one gets left behind or forgotten.”
Learn more about all of our 2016 Casey Excellence for Children Award winners.