The good times are going to roll at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea on the morning of Saturday, March 17. That’s when dozens of bocce ball players will take the field to support Maui’s kids during the seventh annual Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament.

The tournament benefits the Maui Food Bank’s Aloha BackPack Buddies program, which provides healthy weekend meals to elementary school children from food-insecure homes throughout the academic year. Students who are on their school’s free and reduced meal program can pick up a prefilled backpack on Friday afternoon; it contains six meals that they can take home with them.

Since the program began in 2012, it has received support from a number of RAM members, both on and off the bocce ball field.

Denise La Costa of La Costa Realty Hawaii has played in the Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament every year since its inception. “Any time we, as a community, can help fellow Mauians, we should do it,” she said. “And having a blast playing bocce ball and providing help is the best of all worlds.”

Another returning player, Melissa Salvador of Old Republic Title Holding Company, is looking forward to some friendly competition at this year’s tournament. “I’m Italian and will look for any excuse to play bocce,” she said. “But add a great cause like Aloha Backpack Buddies and I’m all in.”

Salvador and her three teammates—Lauren Peacock of Wailea Realty Corp. and Rachelle Gavello and Deni Kawauchi of Old Republic Title Holding Company—are ready to win big for Maui’s kids. “The event organizers do a great job making it very clear that our Maui kids are in need of food and that every dollar of this event is going to help kids be fed and healthy,” Salvador said. “Everyone there wants to help.”

This will be Peacock’s second consecutive tournament, and apart from the game itself, she said, “I enjoy being outdoors in the fresh air all day having fun with wonderful people…with all the support going toward a great cause.”

Last year, 24 four-member teams participated in the tournament, which raised $27,000 for the Aloha BackPack Buddies program. Event organizers say they hope to see 24 teams participate again this year; the fundraising goal for the 2018 tournament is $25,000.

The event begins at 8 a.m. and the cost to play is $125 per person or $500 per team (which includes a continental breakfast and buffet lunch). Trophies will be given to the first-, second- and third-place teams and special awards will be presented to the “best dressed” and “friendliest” teams.

No bocce-playing experience? No problem. In fact, first-time players are encouraged to sign up. “You don’t need to know how to play,” Peacock said. “Just show up with a willing-to-learn and can-do attitude. It’s all about the Maui Food Bank and enjoying your day with some great folks.”

And Salvador says it’s guaranteed to be a good time. “I can’t say what I love most: The costumes, the camaraderie, the silliness or the St. Patty’s Day theme,” she said. “It’s all just so much fun.”

La Costa couldn’t agree more. “Come be silly with us,” she said. “You will laugh, see your peers and associates in a different venue and have a great time—all while helping the Maui Food Bank. How does it get any better than that?”

For more information about the Maui Food Bank, visit To learn more about the Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament on Saturday, March 17, to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, or to register a team, contact Patrick Kilbride at (808) 264-4289 or

By Sarah Ruppenthal
Published in The Maui News – Saturday, February 24, 2018

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