After thousands of people hours by hundreds of volunteers, Lei of Aloha for Las Vegas is nearly done. This time, a TWO mile long ti leaf lei of love to be delivered to the people of Las Vegas after the recent tragedy which killed 59 people in the city lovingly referred to as the Ninth Island.
Blessings will begin for the Lei of Aloha for Las Vegas tonight, Tuesday, October 10 at 6pm at Nalu’s South Shore Grill on Maui as Hawaiian cultural leaders, faith leaders from all denominations and community leaders come together to give the one mile lei created on Maui by hundreds of volunteer hours.
The lei will then begin its journey and stop in Honolulu where it will be joined together with lei weaved on Kauai, Kona and Oahu.
The second blessing will be held at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport at the Hawaiian Airlines terminal at 11am on Wednesday, October 11 and will bless the TWO miles of lei created by volunteers statewide to send love and aloha via a one mile long hug to our friends and family in Las Vegas.
“Sometimes we forget that we are connected, that we always have someone to turn to when we feel alone. We used to always talk to our family or friends, or a trusted leader, coach, minister when we were hurt or confused and you didn’t see these kinds of violent attacks as much. I think we need to remember to reach out to each other, whether we feel unconnected or if we see our loved ones toughing it out alone,” said Ron Panzo, originator of the Lei of Aloha for World Peace.
Lei of Aloha started out in 2015 after terrorists bombed Paris and a small group of people including Panzo came together and decided they would weave a one mile long lei and deliver it to Paris to lay at the site of the explosion. “Tim Lara was the one who suggested ti leaf lei which was more traditional and Hawaiian,” Panzo recalls. Lara and Panzo were part of the delegation that delivered the first Lei of Aloha to Paris.
Then in June of 2016, tragedy struck Orlando, Florida when a gunman killed 49 young people in Pulse Nightclub, the largest mass killing up to that date in the country’s history. Immediately following the shooting, Ron Panzo met with Joe Tolbe about weaving a lei for Orlando. Literally hundreds of volunteers showed up, including Governor Ige who learned to weave ti leaves from a large tattooed biker. Tolbe and Panzo led a contingency of Hawaii Six-O who traveled to Orlando and delivered the lei to Pulse, to the hospital where many were treated and to the large memorial site. Met by dozens of Hawaiians who live in Florida they delivered powerful chants of grief and sadness and love. “I’ve been singing ‘Hawaii Aloha’ all my life, but I was never so proud as I was when we sang that song in Orlando,” said Stacey Moniz, one of the Hawaii 6-O. “It was truly an honor to be able to attend. It meant a lot to the people of Orlando, too, not just the Hawaiians, but everyone we met was so awed by the love of the people of Maui.”
The organizers of Lei of Aloha had also sent lei to Washington DC and also to Honolulu for the return of the voyaging canoe, Hokule`a when she returned from her three year worldwide voyage, Malama Honua.
The shooting in Las Vegas was an instant call to action for the Lei of Aloha team. “We knew immediately we needed to do a lei for Las Vegas. They’re family!” said Panzo. “But with Stacey on Oahu we needed to expand our efforts so I called a few friends and the action on Oahu just grew.” Organized by Moniz and Colleen Nomura, the owner of Jawaiian Irie Jerk restaurant in Waialae, volunteers began to show up. Like Crystale Cayaban and her family, who then inspired Iolani High School and other families to weave nearly 1/4 mile on their own.
Cyrila Pycha led the charge on the island of Kauai and has actually been part of the lei making from Kauai since the lei for Paris. She will be traveling to Las Vegas with the lei along with Ron Panzo and Colleen Nomura. Jeff Gourley led his community in Kona to weave lei at My Bar Kona every day. This lei is truly a statewide effort.
Hawaiian Airlines will be donating four of the airfares for travel from Honolulu to Las Vegas and the California Hotel and Casino will be housing the volunteers who will be delivering two miles of lei to various sites throughout Las Vegas, including the scene of the shooting. “We are so grateful to Hawaiian Airlines, especially Debbie Nakanelua-Richards who has worked so hard on this trip!” Panzo stated.
A blessing for the entire lei will happen on Wednesday, October 11 at 11am at the Hawaiian Airlines lobby. It will be the first time all of the pieces from across the state will be in the same location and we will need to bless this entire lei as one before it leaves Hawaii. Kumu Lehua Kekahuna will be on hand to do the blessing but anyone and everyone is welcome to join us and offer your blessing. “We welcome ALL faiths and all positive well wishes.”