Hundreds of Lahaina families picked up free backpacks filled with school supplies on Oct. 12 as their keiki prepare to return to West Maui campuses.
More than 800 backpacks were distributed by the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association and Kamehameha Schools at a community event sponsored by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education at The Westin Maui Resort and Spa in Kāʻanapali.
More than 400 backpacks with supplies were distributed prior to the community event. Two hundred backpacks were delivered to Ke Kula Kaiapuni ma Lahaina, Lahaina-area Hawaiian language immersion schools.
Nearly 200 more were provided to displaced Lahainaluna High students at Kūlanihākoʻi High in Kīhei, and several dozen were distributed to displaced Lahaina students who transferred into private schools.
The partnership between the teachers association and Kamehameha Schools took shape after the Aug. 8 wildfires destroyed King Kamehameha III Elementary School and temporarily closed three others: Lahainaluna High, Lahaina Intermediate and Princess Nahiʻenaʻena Elementary.
Kamehameha Schools provided the school supplies and secured a donation of 3,000 backpacks from Lands’ End. In September, dozens of volunteers — which included teachers and retirees, and the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association and Kamehameha Schools staff — gathered at Windward Mall on Oʻahu to fill the backpacks with supplies, pack them into boxes, and load them onto a Matson shipping container.
Association vice president Logan Okita said: “We’re here to stand with the community, and we’re here to support our teachers, because ultimately, it supports our students and our community, and it helps us to make sure that everybody will thrive.”
Each backpack also includes a special handmade card created by keiki and ‘ohana who participate in one of the many community programs supported by Kamehameha Schools.
“You can just feel the love that’s being poured into each and every backpack by our retirees and the HSTA staff members and our Kamehameha Schools ʻohana,” Okita said. “It’s amazing to feel just how much love is being put into these backpacks, and hopefully the students and community feel it when they receive them from us.”
Kalei Kailihiwa, Kamehameha Schools director of community engagement, said: “We asked them to take some time, create a handwritten card that demonstrates the care, the aloha that communicates to kids and families in Lahaina that we’re here for you today, tomorrow and always.”
“We care deeply about our communities, our keiki and our ʻohana, and we know that having something as simple as a backpack that you can add your own name to can add to the sense of familiarity, comfort and stability that we know is so important to kids and families today.”
The remaining backpacks will be available for distribution by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa and Lahaina-area schools.