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New Jersey's paddleboard community came together on October 7th to race, not just for the thrill of the sport but for a cause that has touched the hearts of many. The devastating fires in Maui, which saw several families lose their homes and means of livelihood, became the rallying point for a community ready to offer their support.

Kevin Kahikina, deeply moved by the plight of his family members in Maui who lost their homes, teamed up with Ed O'Kinsky to conceptualize this fundraising race. With the unyielding support of friends Josette Lata, Andrea Kahikina, and Marsha Worthington, the idea turned into a reality.

Paddle with Purpose paddlers prepare for the race start

The turnout was heartening. 111 enthusiastic participants raised funds through a $50 entry fee, donations, and a raffle featuring prizes from local businesses and items donated by community members.

Adding to the star power and attraction of the event were Connor Jager, an Olympic swimmer, and Christie Raleigh Crossley, a para-Olympian. The majority of participants took to the waters on stand-up paddleboards (SUP), but there were also 30 prone boards, 5 lifeguard boats, and a special appearance by Chris Bertish, who completed the five-mile race and generously donated a signed paddle and books for the raffle.

After the race, participants and supporters enjoyed a potluck lunch, with most of the food being heartily consumed. Through various fundraising efforts, including a virtual Maui Food Bank link and a significant donation from SEA, the community managed to raise a whopping $10,950! This entire amount will be channeled to aid Maui families affected by the fires.

Those who couldn't join the paddle race but wish to contribute can support the NJ Paddlers' initiative by donating to the Maui Virtual Food Drive. Every dollar you donate can help provide four meals to those hungry in Maui County, where 40% of the beneficiaries are children and youth.

A Personal Note from Josette Lata, the Race Organizer:

Aloha everyone,

The race committee would like to thank all of you for your generosity and positive energy to make yesterday's race a success! You all showed up despite the sketchy forecast, but the rain held off, and we enjoyed glassy conditions. We had 99 racers participate in three races (5 mile, 2 mile, and kids’ race), and the community's generosity shone through with raffle donations and a potluck feast.

From the gift cards, the online Maui Foodbank fundraiser, the raffle, and a $2500 donation from SeaPaddle via Richard Lee, we collected $10,950! None of this would've been possible without you all. If you missed the race, there's still time to donate online for your pledged $50 fee. Thank you to those who've already donated! We will be closing the site for donations this Friday. For race photos, check the drop box folder.

On behalf of the race committee, a massive mahalo for helping our extended Maui community in their time of need. This community truly embodies ohana, and your aloha spirit shines brightly.

Mahalo for your kokua, Andrea, Kevin, Josie, Eddy, Carly, and Marsha.

Photo Credit: Photos provided with permission by Josette Lata

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