It’s been a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for the past nine years: On a designated morning in mid-March, dozens of green-clad bocce ball players take the field at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea for the annual Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament.
The tournament benefits the Maui Food Bank’s Aloha BackPack Buddies program, which provides six healthy weekend meals to students from food-insecure homes throughout the academic year. The program serves preschools, elementary, middle and high schools, and UH campuses in Maui County. Since it began in 2012, it has received support from a long list of Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members, both on and off the bocce ball field.
To date, the annual Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament has raised more than $130,000 for the program. Under the direction of tournament committee chair Patrick Kilbride, the wildly popular, ultra-festive event typically draws more than 20 teams and attracts a large crowd of onlookers.
This year’s tournament was postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date due to COVID-19, but the St. Patrick’s Day tradition will go on—it will just be much smaller and more spaced out than usual.
In lieu of a formal event, a handful of past participants will compete in a spectator-less, socially distanced and masked-up bocce ball match on Saturday March 13 to raise money for the Aloha BackPack Buddies program. Among them are RAM members Shannon Cortez of First Hawaii Title, Anne Diola of Makai Mortgage, Todd Hudson of Keller Williams Realty Maui’s The 808 Team, Rob Manning of Homes & Land Magazine, Dave Richardson of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers and Lee Wheeler of Keller Williams Realty Maui.
It may be a scaled-down version of the real thing, but it will have plenty of heart.
Richardson has participated in the tournament every year since its inception. “Aloha BackPack Buddies was initially brought to my attention through Rhonda Hay [of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers] who developed a program at Kamali‘i Elementary School. In my ignorance I was shocked to learn that children would go home over the weekend with minimal or nothing to eat,” he said. “From that day forward I have supported the wonderful tournament that Patrick Kilbride has put so much energy into to make it the huge success it is today. Maui Food Bank is my number one charity. I give every month to support those that don’t have.”
Like Richardson, Hudson has played every year and says he’s in it for the long haul. “It’s a program I strongly believe in,” he said. “I see how this program impacts so many kids’ lives and will try to keep contributing as long as I can.”
Manning has participated in the tournament eight out of the past nine years. (He happened to be out of town one year, but would have otherwise played.) “Aloha BackPack Buddies is just a great program,” he said. “Hearing the stories of the kids is heart-wrenching and the bocce tournament is a fun way to help the community.”
Hudson encourages others to support the program in the months to come. “These kids need it and probably more than ever,” he said. “Please think with your heart and try to give what you can.”
Manning echoes the sentiment. “There’s no downside to donating to the Maui Food Bank and specifically to Aloha BackPack Buddies,” he said. “The money goes directly to help the kids in need and every dollar helps.”
As the pandemic grinds on, food banks nationwide continue to face an unprecedented demand for resources and the Maui Food Bank is no exception. Donations are needed more than ever to help feed children, families, seniors, the homeless—anyone who is at risk of going hungry. In addition to making their own contributions, Richardson, Manning, Hudson and their fellow bocce ball players are collecting donations from local residents and businesses. To make a donation, visit www.mauifoodbank.org/bocce21.To learn more about the Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament or to find out how you can watch the March 13 event online, contact Patrick Kilbride at 264-4289 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Maui Food Bank, visit www.mauifoodbank.org.
The Maui News – February 8, 2021