That almost-constant wind across the Rathdrum Prairie is an irritant to some, but to Gary Kubodera, it’s one of North Idaho’s blessings.
Kubodera is a kite-flyer and more: He’s a Pied Piper of the skies, out to convert kids – and adults too – to his hobby.
But first, his story: The 41-year-old Coeur d’Alene man is a disabled veteran. While serving with the California Army National Guard he fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a cervical neck injury. That accident 18 years ago finished him with his job as a pharmacy technician with the Veterans Affairs and also ended his military enlistment. He was medically retired, and has been living on a GI pension since then.
His wife, Kiyoko, is a medical technician at Benewah Medical Center, and the Kuboderas have a 4-year-old son, Alex.
Gary and Kiyoko followed other family members north six years ago, settling first in Hayden where he served on the city’s parks and recreation committee. Harkening back to one of the hobbies of his youth, he suggested that Hayden sponsor a kite festival. Committee members bought off on the idea, and the festival has been running for the past three years, most recently April 18 in Broadmoor Park.
Seeking to learn how to run such an event, he visited a festival in Pocatello and there he picked up a pattern for a build-it-yourself kite. Since then, he’s been teaching youngsters and adults the craft.
This year’s model is of light transparent plastic, a roll of which was donated by the Coeur d’Alene Collision Co. The North Idaho Blueprint and Jamar Surveying firms provided flagging for tails, and Gibbs Lumber Co. sold him dowels for the frames at a discounted price.
So far, he guesses, this year’s students have built nearly a hundred kites in workshops he’s conducted at the Lifecare assisted-living facility in Coeur d’Alene, in the Hayden, Post Falls and Couer d’Alene libraries and at Real Life Ministries.
Kubodera admits it’s far easier to buy a kite than to build one, but says one of his most cherished memories is of him and his mom working together on a kite when he was 5.
“Kite flying is one of those rare activities that doesn’t cost anything. And isn’t it nice when kids get out from in front of their televisions and computers to fly them? It’s an especially bonding experience when their parents or grandparents join them,” he said.
In addition to his instructional program, Kubodera last year organized a program that resulted in 350 commercially made kites being sent to American soldiers at Camp Echo, between Baghdad and Basra, in Iraq for distribution by the GIs to Iraqi children. He collected donations from local businesses to support that effort in which the Post Falls Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans also participated.
Kubodera is discussing with Veterans Affairs officials in Spokane the possibility of bringing a kite building workshop to that facility, especially for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Building a kite is a very centering thing,” he says. “You’re not thinking of other stuff, so it’s calming. And it’s also a way that the vets could reconnect with their kids.”
Kubodera is very willing to bring his talent and materials to any group that would like to build kites. His telephone number is (208) 755-2011.