'You can play ukulele and feel real good afterwards'

EUGENE, Ore. - The love of music from home brought the Iron Mango" ukelele group together several years ago.

"A group of us Hawaiians started playing once a month just to jam, three of us," said Ken Nagao, "and eventually we invited more and more people to join us."

As Iron Mango grew, they transitioned from playing music to sharing it, too.

"We try to raise money to buy ukuleles to give to schools so there's music in kid's lives," Nagao said. "That's how we grew up."

They started the "mele ohana" group, which means music family in Hawaiian.

In the last five years, mele ohana has donated around 250 ukeleles to schools in Lane and Linn county.

"It was really rewarding when we went to South Albany to a school we had given about 20 ukuleles to," Nagao said. "Every student now plays the ukulele. Their families bought ukuleles for the kids, so there's music in all their lives."

On Thursday, February 14, Iron Mango and music students from Saint Paul Parish School in Eugene performed together.

"It really got started when our school got donated 18 ukuleles," said student Jack Lund.

Lund said he never thought of playing the ukelele before, but now he loves it.

"I just like the way it sounds," he said. "You can play ukulele and feel real good afterwards."

And that's what mele ohana's members say it's all about.

"It's nice to see that the Hawaiian culture is being spread," Nagao said.