When Hawaii issued its statewide stay-at-home order last spring, many residents suddenly found themselves with a lot of extra time on their hands. Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) affiliate member Michael Fish was one of them.

Fish, a professional videographer and photographer, is accustomed to being busy. With most of his projects canceled or put on hold as a result of the shutdown, he started to feel restless. “I had to find something to do,” he said. More specifically, Fish said, “I wanted to do something positive for the community.”

He found a way to make good use of the downtime. Throughout the month of May, he shot and edited a dozen family videos—all free of charge. That’s how he met Victor and Laura Ruggiero and their 12-year-old daughter, Lacy. While filming the family’s video on the beach in Wailea, Fish asked Lacy about her plans for the future. When she told him she wanted to be a talk show host someday, Fish says a lightbulb went on. “I told her, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s make this happen,’” he said.

In the weeks that followed, Fish and Ruggiero created the eponymously titled “Lacy Ruggiero Show,” which is now available to watch on YouTube. The seven-episode series features guest interviews, musical performances, special guest appearances by Lacy’s parents, some slapstick comedy and blooper reels.

To help Lacy get started, Fish, the show’s pro bono producer, director, cameraman and editor, chose guests and wrote a list of interview questions for the first two episodes. After that, Lacy was on her own. For episodes three through six, she selected local businesses she wanted to feature, including Maui Ono Donuts, Pono Grown Farm, Triple L Ranch and Maui Surfer Girls. Prior to filming the four episodes, Lacy—with a little help from her mom and dad—researched each guest and his or her respective business to come up with her own interview questions; Fish took care of contacting and booking the guests, all of whom he says were thrilled to participate. In the seventh and final episode, Lacy recaps her experience with Fish stepping out from behind the camera to take on the role of interviewer.

For Lacy, this was more than an opportunity to headline her own talk show—it also helped the 12-year-old build her self-confidence both on- and off-screen.

Lacy has dyslexia, a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words. She also has dysgraphia, a neurological disorder characterized by problems with writing, and dyscalculia, a learning disorder that makes mathematical reasoning and computation difficult. She currently attends the Liberty School in Durango, Colo., which provides individualized education for dyslexic, academically gifted and twice-exceptional (both dyslexic and gifted) students.

It’s clear Lacy isn’t letting anything stand in her way, and over the course of filming the seven episodes, Fish said, “She built up her confidence very quickly. It was so great to watch the evolution of her growth.” Victor and Laura say the show was an invaluable educational experience for their daughter, who had an opportunity to conduct real-world research, craft and memorize questions, and learn the nuances of one-on-one interviewing, among other things. And everyone agrees that filming the “Lacy Ruggiero Show” was a lot of fun. “It was a total blast,” Fish said.

It’s the first time he’s worked on a project of this kind—and Fish says he’d do it again in a heartbeat. And on that note: What’s next for Lacy? She and her parents say plans for a second season are in the works… so stay tuned.

All seven episodes of the “Lacy Ruggiero Show” are now available on YouTube. To watch, visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJzRmSlKy3z47kTYMdT-ygg.

The Maui News – September 7, 2020