Kupuna Spelling Bee to benefit Alzheimerʻs Association was idea of Maui teenager

Riley Regan (right) thought a Kupuna Spelling Bee was a good idea after he won a spelling competition as a fifth-grader. Photo Courtesy: Riley Regan

ʻIolani School junior Riley Regan of Maui had an idea after winning a spelling bee as a fifth-grader at Puʻu Kukui Elementary School: create a similar competition for senior citizens.

“Research shows that older adults who view themselves as lifelong learners tend to have sharper cognitive skills,” said Regan, 16. “Preparing for a spelling competition can hone those skills.”

With the help of his parents, Lynn Araki-Regan and Keith Regan, he led organizing efforts for the Kupuna Spelling Bee, which is sponsored by Alaska Airlines and will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association Hawaiʻi.

The spelling bee will have four in-person public competitions, one on each of the four major islands, and a virtual event via Zoom. 

The in-person public competitions:

  • Maui: Saturday, July 9 at 9 a.m. at Puʻunēnē School in Kahului
  • Oʻahu: Saturday, July 9 at 9 a.m. at Aliʻiolani Elementary School in Kaimuki
  • Hawaiʻi Island: Saturday, July 9 at 9 a.m. at the Hilo Elks Lodge
  • Kauaʻi – Sunday, July 17 at 2 p.m. at the Lihue Neighborhood Center

The virtual event will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 16. 

To register, visit The registration deadline is July 5. The cost to participate is a $10 donation to the Alzheimer’s Association. All Hawaiʻi residents ages 60 years and above are eligible to participate.

In addition to the public competitions, there will be private events held at Kahala Nui, 15 Craigside and Arcadia for their residents in early July. Any other senior care facilities interested in hosting a competition for their residents are asked to contact Justin George at the Alzheimer’s Association office at 808-518-6654. 

The competition is both a fundraising activity to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association Hawaiʻi and a way for kupuna to sharpen and utilize their cognitive skills in a friendly competition.

The competition will take place in three age categories:

  • Category 1:  Seniors 60 to 69 years of age
  • Category 2:  Seniors 70 to 79 years of age
  • Category 3:  Seniors 80 years of age and above

The two top winners in each age category from each preliminary spelling bee will receive a medal and advance to compete for prizes at the 2022 statewide Kupuna Spelling Bee on Oʻahu on Saturday, July 23. Finalists also can compete virtually.

As the presenting sponsor, Alaska Airlines is providing the Grand Prize winner a pair of roundtrip tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies. There also will be giveaways of a 5-day/4-night stay for two people at the California Hotel in Las Vegas and other great prizes.

For sponsorship and prize donation information, please contact the Regan family at

For information on conducting a preliminary spelling bee or to reach the Alzheimer’s Association, please contact Justin George at or 808-518-6654.

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