Mari Helenihi was born and raised in Southern California, and lived in Hawai`i for several years where she immediately knew she was “home”. Her love for the islands and Hawaiian culture grew stronger when she married her husband Aaron Helenihi, a Native Hawaiian. Together, they raise their 3 beautiful children to live Hawaiian values through art, music, language, respect and humility.
Mari recognizes that when the youth understand their culture and language, they thrive and are more likely to succeed socially, academically and professionally. For over 10 years, Mari worked diligently with the Hawaiian community in the Portland/Southwest Washington area through her work with Ke Kukui Foundation (a non-profit organization based in Vancouver, WA), by encouraging families to learn and practice Hawaiian values as a family unit.
Under Mari’s leadership as President of Ke Kukui Foundation, the organization formed a community partnership with Clark College, received generous funding from the City of Vancouver, and strengthened solidarity with the local Native American tribal leaders. Now Mari and Aaron have joined with Ho’omalamalama and Ray Brown and the Tandal `ohana as like-minded leaders to focus their efforts in raising the youth to be effective leaders who can speak their truths and their personal stories through various mediums (dance, music, art, spoken word poetry, etc.) by supplying them with culture, support, and Aloha.
Aaron Helenihi currently serves as Treasurer on the board of Manaia ‘Ohana Organization. He was born in Honolulu, Hawai’i, and grew up on the west side of the island of O’ahu. After graduating from the Kamehameha Schools in 1991, he attended the University of Southern California, where he studied Engineering, as well as Business, and eventually graduated with a B.A. in Social Sciences with an emphasis in Communication.
Soon after graduating from USC, he went into the teaching profession through Los Angeles Unified School District, where he taught in Watts, CA, as a way of giving back to the communities near USC. As part of the credentialing program, he attended California State Long Beach and studied for a Master’s in Education. He was married in 1998 and left the teaching profession in December 2000 to begin his family. After working for a short time in the airline industry due to the 9/11 tragedy, he obtained a corporate position with Lexus, and within 1 year, was asked to join and support the launch of the newly formed division of Scion at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. at their National Headquarters in Torrance, CA.
After working with Scion, he was promoted to a position at the Portland Regional Office for Toyota and relocated to the Pacific Northwest. He rotated through various positions and traveled extensively throughout the PNW, which took a toll on his health and his family. After 10 years with the company, he decided to step away and took a Management position at a dealership to be more available for his family. He worked at Toyota of Olympia for 1 year, then decided to focus on helping his kids with their education and supporting their extra-curricular activities through coaching and volunteering in the non-profit sector to help them achieve their dreams.
Currently, he is attending Clark College to obtain an Associates in Applied Sciences degree in Accounting to support his role as Treasurer for Manaia ‘Ohana Organization, as well as the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, where he also serves as Treasurer. He has been married to his wife, Mari, for 20 years and has 3 wonderful children. Family is his everything.