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group photo of student athletes with Bissen and Luke
UH Mānoa student athletes with Mayor Richard Bissen and Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student athletes flew to Maui on September 13 to lend their support to donation distribution centers, assisting with sorting and preparing critical items and supplies to be distributed to those affected by the Maui fires. The visit was a showcase of aloha and solidarity from Mānoa to Maui.

students preparing food boxes
Student athletes provide support at the distribution centers.

The group, comprising more than 50 students, including members of UH’s baseball, football, softball and women’s water polo teams, brought a significant morale boost to volunteers and community members at the sites they visited: Kahului Distribution Center, Kahana Gateway Distribution Center and the Napili Park Community Hub.

The athletes were greeted by Mayor Richard Bissen, a graduate of UH Mānoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

Bissen said, “This is very special. Four of the players on the baseball team are from Maui…so this gives them the opportunity to come home to give back to their community.”

More on how to help Maui ʻohana and the Maui wildfires.

For athletes from Maui, volunteering to support community members affected by the fires held particular significance. Karsyn Pupunu, a junior wide receiver on the Rainbow Warriors football team from Lahaina, was moved by the unity he witnessed.

“People over here in the community are very strong, very loving. Everyone is family-oriented over here, and that plays a significant role in what we see today and what’s going on,” said Pupunu.

Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who helped organize the visit, expressed her enthusiasm about the athletes’ visit to Maui.

student athlete carrying container of food

“When the 50 plus athletes arrived at the Kahului distribution site, the volunteers—one of them said they had chicken skin and it was such a morale boost to have this infusion of young energy,” said Luke.

The teams concluded their Maui visit with a tour of the Napili Park Community Hub, engaging with community members and volunteers to discuss recovery, support and resiliency following the devastating fires.

The influx of the student-athlete volunteers led to reduced wait times for those collecting supplies and increased efficiency at the distribution sites. Volunteers are still needed at both the Kahului and Kahana Gateway donation distribution centers.

For more information on volunteering or donating needed items, visit

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