Local brewery partners with hula dancers to raise money for Maui

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Each step the dancers at Ka Lā Kapu Polynesian Dance Studio takes tells a story – including one of rebuilding for their family in Maui.

Family members like Gina Okameahulamele, Abeita’s aunt who lives in Lahaina. Abeita says her aunt lost her livelihood in a matter of minutes.

“There are eight households that they all lost. And I heard from my auntie, that they even lost some family members as well,” Abeita said.

Her family is frustrated – not only from the uncertainty of their future but from what they describe as a lack of federal aid.

“They were in the dark for four days, with no government official helping out. So they reached out to family members and friends on other islands,” said Abeita.

That’s why Abeita and other Albuquerque residents, with ties to Hawaii, want to take matters into their own hands.

“I say, ‘Let’s just get out there and make some moves,'” said Dana Koller.

Koller owns Kaktus Brewing in Bernalillo. He spent a lot of time in Maui and his mom’s side of the family are natives to the island.

That’s why he didn’t hesitate to help.

“The moment I heard about it, we jumped on the phone. Luckily, Ka Lā Kapu was also just as eager,” Koller said. “It took us all about five seconds to decide, ‘Yes, we’re going to do this.'”

What started as a one-night fundraiser expanded to two nights, thanks to the community’s support.

Every dollar raised from the weekend will go directly to an impacted family.

“We have a lot of our haumana, or students, who have relation to family and ohana in Maui who have been affected by these fires,” Kellie Villicano said.

Since Villicano opened Ka Lā Kapu Polynesian Dance School seven years ago, her class has been her ohana – or family. When ohana calls, New Mexico answers.

“Once we saw the devastation happening in Maui, we wanted to contribute some way somehow as a halau,” Villicano said.

It’s that halau – or class – that brings them hope in times of hardship.

“It really felt like having a piece of home here,” hula dancer Neilina Seay said.

When home is more than 3,000 miles away.

If you want to help, you can grab dinner and enjoy a hula show at Kaktus Brewing next Friday and Saturday. All proceeds will help families in Maui. Click here to learn more.