April 19, 2024

August of 2023 is a time that will forever be remembered by residents of Maui. The wildfires that are estimated to have burned over 6,600 acres combined may have left behind destruction and a long and scarring road to recovery, but what remained burning the strongest was the Hawaiian spirit of Aloha that residents and those outside the immediate community shared in the days and weeks immediately following. Stories of hope, hospitality, and generosity beyond anyone’s expectations spread even faster than wildfire and only served to encourage worldwide support for relief efforts.

Music in the Hearts of Maui

Among the urgency to meet basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter for the thousands displaced by the devastation, emerged a need from souls urging for healing – and that need was the ukulele. When the call came in barely two weeks after the fires began from Ohana dealer Richard Dan, owner of Kamaaina Loan & Cash in Wailuku, located just miles east of Lahaina, our team was touched deeply by what we heard.

“Business is near a standstill. But the little bit of business coming through my store has been from people wanting ukuleles,” said Richard. “Almost everybody plays, and Maui people take comfort from making music together.”

And so began our new joint initiative to bring restoration to Lahaina, replacing instruments that were lost in the flames. Partnering with the National Pawnbrokers’ Association (NPA), a community that was just as eager to help in any way they could and fundraising $15,000 alone for this effort, the following weeks were a flurry of logistics to get ukuleles from the mainland over to the islands, with much help from our partner eFreightship Logistics. In total, more than 300 Ohana ukuleles were delivered to Maui, to students from 3 different schools in Lahaina.

An Early Christmas To Remember

As the clouds cleared and gave way to the sun on an eventful Saturday morning in mid-December, Richard and his team gathered at Canoe Beach (Hanakaoʻo Beach Park) to distribute the ukuleles to a line of eagerly awaiting students and their parents. Stories were shared, music filled the air, and the whole park abound in smiles.


As the morning came to a close, still donning his Santa hat, the biggest smile of all was worn on Richard’s face. “The sweetness has brought joy into my life,” he said, reflecting on this endeavor and the positive, engaging response from the community and students alike.

Throughout this time, the sheer number and variety of relief efforts have been inspiring to witness, including other ukulele-focused initiatives. This little instrument has truly proven how it can make a big impact in all of our lives. But the work is far from finished.

Here are some resources and ways to help even more with ongoing Maui wildfire relief:

Maui Food Bank

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund

Maui Humane Society

Red Cross (Hawaii Wildfire Relief)

Women’s Fund of Hawaii


Mahalo to all of our partners for helping to make this happen!