Caron Barrett and Deborah Vial of KW Island Living’s The Girls’ Island Properties are no strangers to the spotlight. They have been performing together in the Deborah Vial Band for nearly two decades—Vial is the lead singer, Barrett plays guitar and manages the band.
“I used to own a record label and Deborah was on my label; she had a great career singing in Dallas and I had a band,” Barrett said. “My singer had to leave for family reasons, so Deborah and I started playing together around 2001.”
When the couple decided to move from Dallas to Maui in 2004, they considered leaving the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle behind them. “When we came to Maui, we were just so tired from touring and performing on the mainland,” Barrett explained. “We didn’t know how or where we were going to fit into the music scene here.”
But it didn’t take long for them to figure it out.
All it took was an invitation to perform at the Maui AIDS Foundation’s annual Mardi Gras Gala. It would be the first of many fundraising performances for a long list of worthy causes—too many to count, Barrett says. But she and Vial haven’t lost track of the most important thing: the intense joy that comes from helping others. “Deborah and I have been very fortunate and we feel like it is our karmic and civic duty to give back,” Barrett said. “We love to help others and see how it can improve their lives.”
And earlier this year, their passion for helping others grew exponentially.
After unwinding a trust she’d set up in 1998, Barrett sat down with Vial to map out a plan 20 years in the making: They would apportion the funds—which totaled over $650,000—to 33 nonprofit organizations on the mainland and in Hawaii. “We were so excited to have the opportunity to do this,” Barrett said. “From the very beginning, our goal was to inspire others to give back.” The couple met with an attorney, who helped them navigate the legal intricacies and come up with a list of conditions. For one thing, all of the beneficiaries had to be 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations and in good standing for a period of five to 10 years.
After a weeks-long vetting process, Barrett and Vial came up with a list of 18 Oahu- and Maui-based beneficiaries; they divvied up more than $325,000 among them. The diverse roster included the Maui Chamber Orchestra; Trinity Episcopal Church by-the-Sea; Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Maui; A Cup of Cold Water; Maui Food Bank; Aloha BackPack Buddies; Maui Pride; Maui AIDS Foundation; Maui Academy of Performing Arts; Maui Arts & Cultural Center; Maui Humane Society; Maui Adult Day Care Centers; Grow Some Good; Maui OnStage; Mana‘o Radio; Hawaii Public Radio; Ronald McDonald House Charities- Hawaii; and the Epstein Family Foundation.
For many of these nonprofits, the generous donation came out of the blue—so much, in fact, that some held impromptu board meetings to figure out what to do with the funds. “I think we took a few of them by surprise,” Barrett laughed.
She and Vial encourage others to give back to their community in any way they can. “I know we can all turn on the TV and see suffering and people needing help all over the planet,” Barrett said. “But starting in your own backyard is the best way to help. So many here on Maui need our help. Even if you only have $10, that is a huge thing for say, the Aloha BackPack Buddies program—it could buy a good amount of food for a kiddo. We really want to inspire people who live here full time, people who are part-timers, and people who are visiting to do a little good for an island you love so much.”
By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – June 30, 2018