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Kids Day at KH6LC is a Big Deal on the Big Island

01/16/2015

Lloyd Cabral, KH6LC, lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, and each January he does Kids Day in a big way. Twice a year, in January and June, ARRL offers Kids Day to promote Amateur Radio to youngsters who may become Amateur Radio’s next generation. Since retiring 11 years ago, Cabral has focused on HF contesting, and every January he adapts his multioperator station for Kids Day, pairing the youngsters with seasoned veteran operators, or “coaches,” who help them make contacts. The result is a Kids Day the young people will remember.

“This was our fifth year hosting a Kids Day, multi-multi style,” Cabral said. Four youngsters and one adult teen were his guests on January 4. “With a little self-spotting, the huge pileups these kids generated were nothing short of amazing,” he said. One of the coaches is his companion, Leigh Critchlow, WH6DZX, a recently retired journalist and a new ham herself. “As my significant other, she’s getting a crash course in many aspects of life, including Kids Day and motorcycle touring,” he said. “She’s great with the kids, especially the young girls.”

Having built up his station, Cabral said, he’s always looking for new ways to use it. When he saw a Kids Day announcement a few years ago in QST, he decided to run with it. “We made an announcement at a few club meetings, put a notice in our local club newsletter, and our Section Manager mentioned it in his e-newsletter,” he recounted. “It was a huge success. I’m not sure who has more fun, the kids or the coaches!”

KH6LC had three coaches for the January 2015 Kids Day. In addition to Critchlow, Joe Owen, KH6GA, was on hand for his fourth Kids Day, and Carl Byck, KH7BB, has coached at KH6LC since the beginning. “He has two sons who have operated Kids Day with us several times, and one of them got his license,” Cabral said.

Cabral said he tries to create a party atmosphere for Kids Day. “Since the event starts at 8 AM here in Hawaii, we’ve always put out a nice breakfast and lunch for everyone,” he explained. That’s one incentive, but there’s no substitute for seriously promoting the event all year long, he said.

“We’re always on the lookout for potential Kids Day operators and never pass up an opportunity to promote the event,” he said, adding that he concentrates on the January Kids Day event. “When we come do come across someone with children, grandchildren or neighbor kids, Kids Day always gets mentioned. And if they show an inkling of interest, they get invited.”

As Kids Day approaches, he picks up the drum beat; January Kids Day easily can get lost in the holiday hubbub, he pointed out. A month prior to Kids Day, he cranks up the telephone calls and e-mail reminders, asking the youngsters to RSVP. “That gives me an idea of the size of the group, how many coaches we’ll need, and how much food to prepare,” he explained. “The station is always ready to go. That’s the easy part.”

When a “newbie” arrives, Cabral and his team sit down with them to chat about his station, how contacts are made, basic protocols, and other essentials. “I’ve found it helps to introduce them to someone around their age who’s already operating,” he said. His shack is equipped with audio splitter boxes, so the young operators can plug in headphones and listen to their peers make contacts.

“We’ll have them do that for awhile before asking if they’d like to give it a try,” he said. “I’m yet to have someone say no! We have signboards at each position with call sign phonetics and general QSO guidelines. They refer to them a lot.”

KH6LC fires up on two or three bands for Kids Day, depending on how many kids show up and band conditions. “We always self-spot a few times throughout the day, which makes it easy for people to find us. And find us they do!”

Cabral said that seeing the youngsters on the air — many of them for the first time — has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his years in ham radio. “What’s really needed are more stations opening their doors, inviting the kids in, and getting these young operators on the air,” he said. “Everyone who’s contacted these kids over the years, without exception, has been the most gracious, supportive group of people you’ll ever find.

The next Kids Day is Sunday, June 21.

The Kids

Epiphany, 12, was the most-experienced Kids Day 2015 visitor at KH6LC. “She started out years ago, so she’s really a good operator,” Cabral said. “Watching her grow and mature these past 5 years has been amazing. We’re all hoping she’ll get her license someday.”

Johnny, 10, is another Kids Day veteran. “He lives nearby, and I know his family through his grandfather Jack, KQ6CH, a longtime friend in California,” Cabral said. “One highlight this year was that Johnny got to chat with his grandfather via ham radio. That was pretty cool. Johnny is another we’re hoping will get his license.”

Christopher, 12, and Alyssia, 10, are brother and sister. “Both seemed to really enjoy themselves,” Cabral said. “Christopher got into operating and stayed on the air well past the official ending time. I now hear Christopher wants to get his license.” Cabral said the siblings first became aware of ham radio while visiting their grandparents in Germany, where a neighbor had a tall tower and antenna.

Tyson, 18, is a high school senior who plans to join the US Army in July. “This was Tyson’s first time on the air, and he really enjoyed himself,” Cabral said. “He caught on right away and soon sounded like a veteran.”

 



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