Gabe Amey

St. Louis School - Class of 1997

Founder: RISEHI, Hawaii VA Loans, Hawaii VA Games, Hawaii VA Foundation, VAMBA

There is meaning deep below the surface of the name “RISEHI,” and if you ask its Creator and Founder, Gabe Amey, he’ll share the story with you. 

In the summer after his senior year at Saint Louis School, Amey was training in preparation for his freshmen year of college football. Micha Matsuzakai, a star player at St. Louis who went on to have a successful career at BYU, agreed to spend six days a week training him in the weight room and on the field. But it was where and how Matsuzakai chose to train him on Tuesdays and Fridays that left a lasting imprint on Amey’s young mind. 

On a long, steep road off Waialae Avenue called Wilhelmina Rise, Matsuzakai would make him run. Lungs burning and legs screaming in the high sun of mid-day, Amey describes the training as “absolute torture for me.” Yet, Matsuzakai would run with him, beating Amey every time. 

“What I realized later in life was that he didn’t make me run that hill to build me physically. He made me run that hill to prepare me mentally. To help me understand that there will be huge obstacles in my life, and you need to be mentally tough to overcome them,” says Amey.

Amey credits Micha Matsuzakai as a critical figure in his development and those runs on Wilhelmina Rise as catalyst for his standout football career at Menlo College (earning him 2015 Hall of Fame induction honors), his subsequent five years playing professional football for the AFL, and his fortitude in business. Thus, Amey chose the name “RISEHI” to pay homage to “Wilhelmina RISE” and the life lessons he learned through his experiences on that hill.

Today, one of the ways Amey defines success is by “having the creative freedom to take on the projects that I’m passionate about.” The success of his business and philanthropic endeavors illustrate that when Amey has a mission, he goes all in. He is the founder of Hawaii VA Loans, Hawaii VA Games, Hawaii VA Foundations, VAMBA, and now, RISEHI. Foremost, Amey has a passion for passing down the wisdom he has attained to help Hawaii’s youth find their definition of success.

What were you like as a teenager?  

I was a knucklehead, but I was a functioning knucklehead. Meaning, I would get into trouble, but not too much trouble that got me off on the wrong track. I tended to gravitate to guys who were a little more “kolohe” than me - who would do the things that I didn’t really have the guts to do myself. That way I could get the excitement of being a bit rebellious, without having the full on consequences thrown directly at me if we got caught. I guess I was hedging my bets. I didn’t realize this then, but looking back, I can see it.

What advice would you go back and tell your younger self?

You have more power than you even think. You can do more things than you even realize. Stop worrying what everyone else thinks of you. Try not to worry too much about criticism. If you live your life waiting for validation and trying to satisfy your friends all the time, you’re holding yourself back. 

Who is someone past or present that you admire and why?

The New Zealand explorer and mountaineer, Sir Edmund Hillary. Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, and Hillary were the first to summit Mount Everest in 1953. Not only do I admire him for being the first to complete such an astonishing feat, but I admire him more for the values he represented. 

Upon reaching the top of the historic summit, he celebrated by taking a picture of his climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay. When Norgay asked for the camera so he too could take a picture of Hillary to commemorate the historic moment, Hillary declined. He didn’t need a picture. When reporters asked the climbers who reached the top first, Hillary said “we both reached the top at the same time,” even though Norgay, in a later biography, confessed that it was Hillary who summited first.  

I admire Sir Edmund Hillary for being adventurous and bold, but mainly for the fact that he did things for the right reasons. Not for publicity, fame or fortune. He did things because a challenge presented itself to him, and it was something he wanted to accomplish. His legacy helps me strive to live in a similar manner. 

What does success mean to you?

To me, it’s having options. Not being forced to do something that I don’t want to do. Having creative freedom to take on projects that I’m passionate about, not just what pays the bills. For me, it also means having the ability to travel and see the world, to bring my family with me, so that my kids can get a perspective that takes them to see different places, meet different people, and be exposed to different cultures. Ultimately, success for me is doing things for the right reasons and looking back at your life being proud of your accomplishments, and being proud of how you raised your family.

What do you think of at night, that others probably don’t realize?

That our time here is not infinite. The clock is ticking, and it’s up to me to make sure I live a life in which I‘ve made a contribution, a life in which I can be proud of, and a life of little regrets.