by LYDIA COBB | photo by Samantha Gleaton Photography

Family Ties By Design

volunteer_peneku2Carlsbad is home for Kamali’i Peneku. She has lived here her whole life, outside of her college years in Durango, CO, where she obtained a B.A. in graphic design on a softball scholarship at Fort Lewis College. Today she’s the administrative assistant at Acutus Medical while simultaneously building her graphic design portfolio for brand communications. Talent is also a service, and Kamali’i gives back through visual communications for the Mary Seau CTE Foundation. Mary Seau is the sister of the late Chargers player, Junior Seau, who struggled with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

“The foundation is based off the experience and memory of the passing of the Seau family’s beloved brother, son, uncle, and father, Junior Seau,” explained Kamali’i, who grew up with Mary’s kids along with the rest of the Seau family as close family friends. Mary invited Kamali’i to be the foundation’s creative and social media manager. The foundation was established early this year to raise funds for research on the long-term effects from repetitive head impacts. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease found in deceased athletes involved in contact sports, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. “What shocks me most is the amount of stories and how many people are out there who have experienced CTE,” reflected Kamali’i. The foundation is in place to enrich the lives of those affected, while working with a neuropathology team at Boston University to develop imaging for the presence of early CTE. Their first fundraiser is June 18 at Rookies Bar & Grill in Oceanside.


Name: Kamali’i Pikake Hoāhu Ona Pua Peneku
Community: Carlsbad
Family: Dad – Leland Peneku; Mom – Kimberly Peneku;
Sister – Kamalani Peneku; Brother – Kalima Peneku

Hobbies: Softball, Polynesian dancing, the beach, and DIY projects

volunteer_peneku1This work is central to her love for family. Being at the beach growing up and playing family softball games carry her forward with positive bonds. “As with softball,” shared Kamali’i, “I grew up in a cultured world of dance and song.” Since the age of three she has enjoyed Polynesian dance in a group with her family and in high school. “It’s a part of me that will forever be there, it’s my culture and in my blood.” She was encouraged to follow her creative passions. “I’ve always loved to color, draw, and make things for people,” she added. “I think all my gifts I have given people are the ones that I’ve created.” It’s Kamali’i’s gift of service to lend her design expertise to a foundation at work improving quality of life.

Group: Mary Seau CTE Foundation
Mission: To raise funds that will aid in the investigation of the long-term effects from repetitive head impacts sustained during contact sports, military conflicts, or other potentially hazardous environments; Our vision is to increase awareness and education to detect and treat early stage brain trauma and enrich the lives of individuals who have been affected.