Each season, as Christmas descends on us, our time, energy, and attention can be pulled in multiple directions as we negotiate family time, parties, and the incoming swells. One thing that’s important to pencil into your schedule, however, are events that support causes we can all get behind: annual non-profit fundraisers, which give us an opportunity to give back while enjoying good music, good food, and good people. This year, there’s a great new event that combines entertainment, friendship, and the opportunity to help support people doing excellent things in our community.
This holiday season, Best Buddies, a national nonprofit with an active local chapter, will be hosting their first annual Holiday Friendship Jam Fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Iao Theater from 6-8pm, with an after party at Wai Bar from 8-10pm. The set of the theater production “Elf” will provide the festive backdrop for singer-songwriter Amy Hānaiali’i and the group Kanekoa, and the evening will feature drinks, pupu, and a silent auction along with the entertainment.
“Friends are one of the most important things we have in life and this is exactly the what Best Buddies is all about,” said Mike McCormick, board chair and founder of Best Buddies Hawai‘i. “We match students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in friendships with students without disabilities. This way they can each learn from each other. The lessons learned last forever.”
“Best Buddies is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides one-to-one friendships and leadership opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Sarah Man, state director. “We have 8 school-based friendship programs in middle and high schools on Maui.”
As a worldwide volunteer organization, Best Buddies also creates integrated employment and leadership development opportunities. It was established in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver.
“People should come to the Jam because it is a great way to see our local Best Buddies community come together to celebrate our mission of friendship and inclusion,” said Man. Event-goers will also be treated to a concert by some of Maui’s finest musicians. Amy Hānaiali’i, one of Hawai’i’s top selling female vocalists of all time, has an array of awards and acknowledgements, including five Grammy nominations for Best Hawaiian Music Album.
Kanekoa, a popular local band, describes themselves as ‘ukulele-powered Hawaiian-reggae-folk-rock. Kanekoa has been playing together since 1999, melding elements of Hawaiian, rock, folk, blues, reggae, and improvisation into a unique island sound. Kanekoa band members are Kaulana Kanekoa (rhythm ‘ukulele, lead vocals, lyrics), Vince Esquire (lead ‘ukulele, backing vocals, sounds), Travis Rice (cajon, congas, kit, electric pads, backing vocals), and Don Lopez (u-bass, electric bass, backing vocals).
“Best Buddies has the ability to recreate the social fabric of a school community, lower bullying, and help kids with and without IDD [Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities] bring compassion and awareness to those around them,” said Man. All Friendship Jam proceeds help support Best Buddies Hawai‘i programs assisting youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities at eight schools here on Maui along with young adults with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and other undiagnosed disabilities.
“It’s a great way to celebrate friendship during the holiday season and at the same time enjoying great entertainment with family and friends,” said McCormick. “In addition, by coming you’ll be supporting hundreds of students in our schools with and without disabilities.”
Tickets prices are: $20/students, $30/general admission, and $40/VIP tickets which include Wai Bar After Party with drinks and heavy pupus. To reserve tickets online visit: Bestbuddies.org/maui-friendship-jam or call 242-6962 for more information. Best Buddies is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Your contributions may be tax deductible.