LIHUE — The houses can wait a day, said Shana Cruz, a homeowner at the Kauai Habitat for Humanity’s Ele‘ele Iluna community.
Cruz was joined Saturday by other homeowners and volunteers with the Kauai Habitat for Humanity in cheering on walkers participating in the 38th annual Visitor Industry Charity Walk presented by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, Kauai Chapter.
“Today, we’re not building houses,” Cruz said at the historic County Building. “We’re building community. We’ll go back to building houses after this is done.”
More than 1,700 walkers took part in the statewide event on Kauai. Walkers covered a nearly 3-mile circle route in Lihue to raise funds that will benefit Kauai nonprofit organizations.
George Thronas, the walk chairman, said Saturday’s event was going to hit its goal of $250,000 through the efforts of the walkers and the various fundraising events hosted by some of Kauai’s resorts.
“Last year, Kauai raised $244,444 — all of which stayed on Kauai to benefit Kauai’s nonprofit organizations,” Thronas announced. “This year, with a goal of $250,000, we have $247,000 — just $3,000 of goal.”
The statement prompted many people to dig into their pockets. The Grand Hyatt, already announced as the top producer in resorts at $30,120, kicked in another $1,000.
“We might have been a little short on walkers,” said Christina Gabriel, manager of the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club and president of HLTA, Kauai Chapter. “But the money is coming through.”
More money came through as the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, tying with the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort as No. 3 in fundraising at $20,000 each, kicked in another $500 apiece.
“We’re just $1,000 short of goal,” Thronas said. “Anyone who wants to help can call me at (808) 240-6452.”
Top individual fundraising effort honors went to Hanalei Bay Resort’s Lillian Watari for the third straight year. The North Shore resort worker raised $8,330.
“I got a lot of help from my family and the resort owners,” Watari said. “When I started doing this four years ago, I finished second. We even have owners walking with us today.”
For the honor, Watari earns a trip to Las Vegas.
Tom McAfee, who walked for Malama Pono Health Services, was the random drawing recipient of a trip “anywhere Alaska Airlines flies” put up by the Central Pacific Bank for the third year in a row. The incentive was available to walkers who registered at the walk for the drawing, co-sponsored by the KQNG Radio Group and Alaska Airlines.
Wyndham Resorts was voted the most spirited aid station; it had Kauai Community College nursing students stationed at each one to assist with first aid despite celebrating graduation the night before.
Other KCC students from the culinary arts department were dispersed throughout the resort breakfast stations to help provide breakfast for finishing walkers who were greeted by members of the Kapaa High School football team and Easter Seals clients.
The Visitor Industry Charity Walk, founded in 1978, is Hawaii’s largest single-day fundraising event benefiting nonprofit organizations. Since it started, more than $27 million has been raised to support hundreds of local charity organizations throughout the state.