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The Family That Gives Together

Arashiro FamilyFamily affair: Each year, Maui dentists Dean Arashiro (far right) and Maggie Garcia-Arashiro (beside him) let their kids pick which charities to fund.

Four years ago, two Maui dentists took a novel approach to philanthropy: They put their kids in charge of the purse strings. Dean Arashiro and his wife Margaret Garcia-Arashiro established a charitable fund with the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and, each year, their three children decide where the donations go. Each kid awards two grants per year.

The first year, the Arashiro family’s donations had a bit of four-legged theme. Fourteen-year-old Sofia and her 11-year-old twin brothers had just adopted their first dog, so they gratefully directed their dollars to the Hawai‘i Animal Rescue Foundation and Assistance Dogs of Hawai‘i. The following years’ donations included the Pacific Cancer Center, Pā‘ia Youth Center and STEMworks, a program that engages under-served students in science, technology, engineering, and math education.

Watching his children’s interests evolve over time has been rewarding, says Arashiro. Sofia often chooses healthcare-related charities-such as the Kapi‘olani Health Foundation, which helps children from neighbor islands access medical care on O‘ahu. She’s now a pre-med student on the Mainland.

“This year, during COVID, we saw more homelessness while driving around,” says Arashiro. “We talked about the things that we take for granted, like food and housing.” The kids responded by funding the Maui Food Bank and Hale Kau Kau.

In addition to financial help, the family has volunteered with Assistance Dogs of Hawai‘i. “We got to meet some of the dogs,” says Arashiro. “They have a graduation where they pair dogs with their new owners. We got to witness the dogs opening cabinets, closing and opening doors, and helping people out of bed. It’s nice to see where the funds go.”

Each year, the teens run their charitable ideas past Inger Tully, Hawai‘i Community Foundation director of community philanthropy for Maui County. “She lets them know which groups have a good track record,” says Arashiro. He appreciates the help vetting recipient agencies, and likes knowing that the money goes to the people (or pets) who need it most. Most of all, he’s happy to have established a new, meaningful family tradition.

“I wanted the kids to become more independent, and to be aware of what’s going on in the world,” says Arashiro. “It feels good to give back locally because Maui County supported my practice. I wanted to make a difference where we live.”

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