Life “after the fundraiser” fondly became referred to as ATF during the chaos of planning over the last couple months. Our staff could barely see the light at the end of the tunnel as our 10th anniversary first annual fundraiser approached and all of us, although excited, couldn’t wait for the preparations to be over and for our lives to return back to normal. Normal at Hookuaaina is a pace that I used to think of as crazy busy. Next to pulling off a fundraiser, it feels like a piece of cake! Hosting groups 5 days out of the week, managing a farm, producing poi, writing grants, having random people pop in all the time, raising a family, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, no problem! I even heard the words come out of my mouth “I would much rather write 10 grants than coordinate a fundraiser!” Never in a million years did I ever imagine myself saying those words.
Here we are 2 weeks post party and I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Gone are the days of countless texts, emails, decisions and details that whittled my brain down to a scrambled mess. For weeks leading up to the event, I felt like a tiny ball in the pinball machine of life. I have a new found respect for the amazing fundraisers we have attended just imagining what the behind the scenes were like and the army of people it must have taken to pull it off.
Did we pull it off? I think so. And yes, we had an army!
At 4:20pm that evening my family had still not showered. We were running around frantically trying to tie up last minute details. Guests were arriving at 5pm! Thankfully, our amazing staff, board members, and volunteers (75 total) were faithfully there to miraculously put it all together before the first guests arrived at 4:45!
It was a tidal wave of people rolling in after that, 350 total. 100 more than we had planned! It was all a blur as I greeted guests thinking in the back of my mind the many to do’s that I had left hanging. It had to be surrendered. Our guests seemed happy to be at Kapalai and the party had begun! The buzz around the cocktail tables as people began to enjoy the pupus was fun to watch. Beer and conversations were flowing, so much so that it took Kihei, our emcee, several attempts on the mic to get everyone seated.
After the family oli and opening pule from our beloved Uncle Earl Kawa’a, service began. Our whole intent behind the menu was to take our guests back in time when poi was the center of the meal. Each table had 3 umeke of poi in different stages, one fresh, one day old and one 10 day old. The rest of the food and wine offerings were all meant to accompany the poi. It was up to each guest to adventure with pairing the different flavors. Accompaniments included pork and ulu lau lau, Kole (reef fish), pipi kaula (dried meat), limu (sea weed), ahi poke, dried ahi, raw and dried he’e (octopus) hō’io (fern) salad and paʻakai (salt) gathered from Molokai. For dessert, we created a Kapalai style kulolo with banana freeze, coconut syrup and toasted coconut on top.
The best part about the menu is that everything on the table, with exception to the pork in the lau lau, was raised, caught, gathered, grown and prepared either at Kapalai or by friends. I think the food was extra delicious because of all the love that went into every dish. We have had a flood of comments about how much people loved the food and how it touched their hearts. Many kupuna shared they hadn’t had food like that since they were children. Ahhhh, YES! That is exactly what we were hoping for. All the dropped details just faded away.
During dinner folks mingled through the silent auction and reconnected with friends, the buzz was contagious. I had just sat down to do the same, (I barely got to visit with anyone – my apologies) when the dreaded moment came! Dean came to grab me. It was time for the formal part of the program. The time in which all I was asked to do was to share about our journey for the past 10 years and acknowledge those who had been a crucial part in getting us here to this point at Kapalai. I was secretly hoping that we would scrap this since everyone was anxiously waiting for the musicians to start. No such luck, I followed Dean to the front and what happened after that is a complete blur. The only thing that I heard come out of my mouth was blahblahblahblahblah. To this day, I have no idea what I said but I can assure you it was not what I intended! Complete brain meltdown. I couldn’t find any of my thoughts. My brain just said, “Nope, I’m done. Enough already! You overloaded me and I’m not coming back tonight!” It was an important life lesson for me. Just say no! I have realized my limitations. I cannot be the coordinator and the communicator. Choose one or the other.
Thankfully, I was rescued by Dean who still had a clear mind and a surprise presentation by our kids and the interns. They set the tone to begin what was one of the most memorable evenings of music I have witnessed in a very long time. Kawika Kahiapo, Robi Kahakalau, Moon Kauakahi and Joe Bernobis shared their sweet melodies with us for over 2 hours. I forced myself to sit down and soak it all in. It trickled down into every part of my being to bring restoration to my soul. Looking around at the crowd, I could see that many others were experiencing the same thing.
“So will you do this again next year,” was the question of the evening as guests departed around 10pm. That is like asking a woman who just went through labor if she is ready for another one! Maybe ask us in 6 months after the pain of labor has faded and all that remains are the memories of an enchanting evening spent with friends.
Is it worth it to do it all again? Absolutely! We exceeded our goals and raised enough to fund our intern program for over 6 months. But that was not the only intent behind our efforts to pull off our first ever fundraiser. The real intent behind the whole evening was to celebrate the abundance of Ke Akua and to thank all of those who came alongside us, believed in the crazy vision and jumped in, literally, to help us see it through. These moments in life require taking time out to acknowledge the process, celebrate the success and refresh for what lies ahead. For our new friends who were able to join us, we need your support! It takes a village to build a healthy community. We invite to journey with us.
Whether is every year, every other or in the next 10, we look forward to celebrating with you again! Just give us a few moments to regroup.
He Hālana i Kapalai! What a night to remember!