Been There Done That
How Bonnie Kos helped a sport-loving group become a 501c3

Introduced: December 03 2012


A Boatload of Support for Cancer Survivors

After Bonnie Kos finished her 30-year career with McDonalds Corporation – including her role as Vice President, Corporate Real Estate -- she began to spend more time in Hawaii. Never one to sit still for long, she became involved with a local sporting group that paddles outrigger canoes. On one of her paddling excursions out onto the azure blue bay, another member of the six-person crew said “You ought to come out and race with us.”


Bonnie first reacted to “race” – (to date her paddling had not involved races) -- and then she became curious about who “us” was. “Us” was the “Mana’olana Pink Paddlers.”


Started by a breast cancer survivor and modeled after a group in Canada known as  "Abreast-in-boat," the Pink Paddlers aimed to offer persons who’d undergone treatment for breast cancer a way to get back into feeling healthy, strong, and good about life. Although Bonnie is not a breast cancer survivor, she is a cancer supporter, having lost her sister to lung cancer at age 44. So she “climbed aboard” with the Pink Paddlers.


It wasn’t long before Bonnie began to see the possibilities and think about connections. The group was growing, adding new members who included survivors of other kinds of cancer and men as well as women. To keep growing, they needed another boat and some sort of financial backing. They also wanted to expand their mission to include raising funds to support early cancer screening for Hawaii's underserved population.


Using her business background, Bonnie took on the job of helping the Pink Paddlers become an official not-for-profit 501c3 organization capable of raising funds as a tax-exempt entity. It was a painstaking process with a mountain of paperwork and many steps to complete, but Bonnie and her group kept going. Once that was achieved, Bonnie circled back to her McDonalds roots. Former McDonalds chairman Fred Turner was living on Maui (and his wife had died from breast cancer). He was excited about the Pink Paddlers' plans and offered to cover the cost of the group's first promotional materials.


Then Bonnie turned to two women who, between them, owned 14 McDonalds franchises on the island. Neither has had cancer and neither likes to swim or paddle, but they enthusiastically supported the idea. The new outrigger canoe they helped the Pink Paddlers obtain proudly displays the golden arches, and in the past year, the Pink Paddlers have made great progress toward raising money for expanded health care services and reaching out to other cancer survivors.


According to Bonnie, it's a story of people coming together for a worthwhile idea and each doing what he or she can. And it's real life example of why the Pink Paddlers chose the name they did. In the native Hawaiian language, "mana'o" means "thought"; "lana" means "belief," and together Mana’olana means "hope" and that's what they bring to their members and their community.

For more information or to support the Pink Paddlers, use this link:!about/c2414