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Athletics Olympian and Hutt Valley local Shaka Sola has been named The Warehouse national Community Hero for 2017 at The Warehouse Group Gala Dinner, held at Spark Arena on 25 August.
Originally from Samoa, Shaka Sola is the founder and head coach of Sola Power Throwing Academy, a community athletics programme based in Moera, Lower Hutt.
Shaka founded the academy to help encourage youth off the streets and into athletics. A champion thrower who represented Samoa at the Commonwealth and Olympic games, he started by turning an unused piece of land into an athletics training academy for local youth.
"Being involved in athletics keeps our kids busy and active, so they stay out of trouble. I like to make a difference in my own community, it's where my own kids live and they can see that their dad is working hard to make their place an even better one," he says.
“I saw a need to help make changes in the lives of others.”
As head coach of the academy, as well as offering his free time, Shaka has helped to grow, develop and mentor hundreds of Wellington youth, many of whom travel significant distances to attend his academy.
The Warehouse CEO Pejman Okhovat said Shaka embodied The Warehouse Group values, helping New Zealanders to flourish.
“Each of the 92 Warehouse stores nationwide can nominate a community hero from their region. These nominees have gone above and beyond to make their community a better place. They’re someone who has given generously of their time to support others,” he said.
Andrew Bell, The Warehouse Lower Hutt Assistant Store Manager said Shaka is an all-round leader.
"He’s such a good caring guy who continually gives his free time working with youth from all over the Hutt Valley, supporting them and developing their sporting talents. He’s a real asset to the community."
Sola Power Throwing Academy provides training to participants at minimal cost, so relies on sponsorship and support from members of the local community. They receive support from The Warehouse Customer Choice programme initiative, where proceeds from the sale of plastic bags in Warehouse stores go to supporting local charities and not for profits. Since 2009, Bags for Good has donated around four million dollars to charity.
“I feel that having these events or activities in the community is very important. Having The Warehouse supporting community programmes makes it so much easier. A little goes a long way to helping youth achieve their dreams and goals,” said Shaka.