(assistance, cooperation, lending a hand)
This is another of those Hawaiian words whose true meaning differs subtly from a single-word translation such as “help” or “crew.” Kokua carries an undertone of cooperation, of mutual assistance. A better translation would be “pitching in.”
Which is why “kokua” is the only word to adequately describe 5,000 volunteers pitching in to help fewer than half that many athletes reach the finish line.
The stories are wonderful, and there’s a wonderful sameness about many of them. Here’s the template: “We came here from [city, country] [x] years ago and stumbled into the middle of Ironman. We volunteered for [something] and we’ve been coming back to do the same job every year since. It’s the highlight of our year!”
Meet some of the people who make it all possible.
All photos © 2015 by Lee Gruenfeld