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Nalu’s benefit raises $40,000 for Lahaina Keiki Relief Fund

Nauluʻs South Shore Grill owner Ron Panzo (far left) founded the Lahaina Keiki Relief Fund and held a benefit at his restaurant on Aug. 19, 2023. (Photo Credit: Abby Owens/For Maui Now)

The smell of homemade laulau wafted through the air on Saturday as local music group Gilbert and Friends serenaded the crowd with their acoustic rendition of Cat Stevens’s “Where Do The Children Play?”

As the song ended, family and friends leaned on each other. Melodious echoes boomed through the microphone: “Save Lahaina.”

Ron Panzo, owner of Nalu’s South Shore Grill in Kīhei, said his restaurant had been packed all day with people attending the Lahaina Keiki Relief Fund Concert — many of whom wore newly purchased T-shirts that said “Maui Strong” and “All Hawaiʻi Stand Together.”

From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., more than 300 people came to support community members, and especially the children, whose lives have been devastated by Maui’s fires.

The benefit, sponsored by Naluʻs and the Azeka Shopping Center, raised nearly $40,000, with all of it going to the Lahaina Keiki Relief Fund.

Panzo founded the fund to provide food, clothing and school supplies to children affected by the fires that destroyed homes in Lahaina and Kula.

In just a couple of days, Panzo curated a line-up of 11 local and national musical groups and accumulated artwork from local artists for a silent auction. Panzo said getting musicians to participate was easy. They were “eager to volunteer their time right now.”

“Anytime somebody calls us for a benefit concert, we’ll show up. Especially when it is something as big and important as what Ron’s doing here tonight,” said ʻukulele virtuoso Andrew Molina who performed with Jay Molina.

Other musicians and bands that performed for free: Anthony Pfluke, Sista Robi, Ron Kualaau, Kawika Ortiz, Rama Camarillo & ʻOhana, Tarvin Makia, Leilani’s 5, Brother Noland and Kalae and Tarvin.

When Panzo was asked what moved him to organize this event so quickly, he said: “The biggest compliment I get from customers is that this is more of a community center than it is a restaurant. Yes, we are all just devastated by what’s going on. But we are one big family, and we need to support those affected in every way we can.”

Abby Owens

Abby Owens is a freelance reporter for Maui Now. She is Editor-and-Chief at Mouth of the River, the school newspaper at Oyster River High School in Durham, NH. Owens was a recent recipient of the Yale Book Award.

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