"Sake Fest" supports pediatric heart care

Sake Fest © 2009 UC Regents
The Sake Fest provides the chance to enjoy Japanese food and beverages, especially Sake, and support UC Davis Children's Hospital at the same time.

Posted Sept. 23, 2009

It was 28 years ago and Harley and Judy Inaba had welcomed their second child, a little boy, into the world. But their joy would soon be tempered by anguish on learning that the infant had a serious congenital heart defect that would require surgery if he was to survive.

The condition, called transposition of the great arteries, is a defect in the placement of the major vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. It would be a year before the child, named Graig, would be able to have the surgery that would repair his heart.

“From day one he started turning blue,” Judy Inaba recalled recently. “Here he was, this eight-pound baby that everyone had thought was fine, in the neonatal intensive unit, surrounded by preemies.”

That infant is now a healthy young man who is a pharmacy technician. But his parents would never forget the harrowing experience of having a seriously ill child, his mother said.

So when the Inabas, who are owners of a nationwide distributor of Japanese beverages and specialty foods, looked for a cause to give to, a friend encouraged them to consider UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Heart Center. The couple decided it was the perfect fit.

How to get tickets

The Sake Fest will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, 1230 J St., Sacramento. Tickets to the Sake Fest are $55 in advance, and $65 at the door — participants must be 21 or older. For more information call 916-373-1111, or visit http://www.nafdc.com.

To fundraise for the hospital, the Inabas decided to combine their love of Japanese food and beverages, particularly sake, a beverage made from rice, with their desire to support pediatric heart care.

The result was the Northern California Premium Sake Fest, an annual sake tasting event now in its fifth year that benefits the children’s hospital.

Judy and Harley Inaba © 2009 UC Regents
Judy and Harley Inaba have now finalized plans for their fifth Sake Fest, which gives them the chance to share their culture and their appreciation for the community's pediatric heart center. "It just seemed like a great match for us," said Judy.

This year’s Sake Fest will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 30, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, 1230 J St., Sacramento. The event will feature sampling Japanese beverages like sake and beer, as well as a variety of Japanese foods, including sushi, from several local restaurants. Tickets to the Sake Fest are $55 in advance, and $65 at the door — participants must be 21 or older. For more information call 916-373-1111, or visit http://www.nafdc.com.

“We thought we could raise money for the children’s hospital and pediatric heart research,” she said. “It just seemed like a great match for us, especially because the money would stay in the local area and benefit people in our own community.”

The Inaba family has been part of the Sacramento community for more than 70 years. The seed for their West Sacramento-based business, North American Food Distributing Co., Inc., was planted when Harley Inaba’s grandfather started a small grocery store in Walnut Grove, a tiny Sacramento River Delta town, in 1939.

The store, named Inaba and Sons, sold Japanese foods to local patrons. Later, after Harley’s grandfather retired, the store’s name would be changed to Inaba Brothers. It continued to operate until, like other Japanese Americans, the Inaba family was relocated to an internment camp near Denver, Colo., during World War II.

After the war was over the Inabas returned to Walnut Grove to resume the family business. They started the wholesale food distribution company in 1947. In 1956 they added a second business, a line of Japanese giftware that includes rice bowls and sake sets. The company was incorporated in 1970s.

Today, the business and its affiliates ship Japanese merchandise — including giftware, sushi products, rice products, teas, sake and beer and frozen seafood — throughout the United States.

UC Davis Children's Hospital

UC Davis Children's Hospital © 2009 UC RegentsUC Davis Children’s Hospital is a world-class pediatric hospital devoted to the health of babies, children and adolescents. Because we’re an academic medical center, we benefit from a full-time physician staff, many of whom are members of the faculty of the UC Davis School of Medicine.

With over 120 physicians in 33 pediatric subspecialties, UC Davis Children’s Hospital is the most comprehensive pediatric hospital in the Sacramento region, offering compassionate, family-centered care in a healing environment.

For more information, visit the UC Davis Children's Hospital Web site.

Judy Inaba, who is the business's controller, said that she and Harley, its president, love holding the Sake Fest, which allows them to share Japanese food and beverages and benefit an important cause.

“Twenty years ago we had to wait a whole year for Graig to have the surgery that would save his life,” Inaba said. “Today technology has advanced so that they’re able to go in and fix tiny baby hearts immediately after birth. We want to be a part of supporting research that promotes those kinds of innovations."

Congenital heart defects, like the one the Inaba’s child experienced, are structural problems within the heart that are present at birth. They result when a mishap occurs during heart development. This usually occurs soon after conception and often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. Defects range in severity from simple problems, such as "holes" between chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as complete absence of one or more chambers or valves. Each year, more than 40,000 children in the United States are born with a heart defect, known as congenital heart disease.

The UC Davis Children’s Hospital Pediatric Heart Center offers an integrated team of specialists, including doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals, available to provide a comprehensive range of diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical procedures for infants, children and adolescents with congenital as well as acquired heart defects.