For the ninth year in a row, the good times will roll at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea. On the morning of Saturday, March 14, 24 teams of bocce ball players will take the field to support Maui’s kids during the 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.

Lee Wheeler of Keller Williams Realty Maui was a first-time participant last year. “I am a regular supporter of the Maui Food Bank and I like to play bocce ball, so I put a team together,” he said.

Call it beginner’s luck, but Wheeler’s team, the Flying Wombats, took home the first-place prize. This year, he and his fellow Flying Wombats will defend their title and they are ready for another round of fun and friendly competition. “The Maui Food Bank is a great organization doing good work,” he said. “If you want a fun day—even if you come to watch—and want to support a good cause, this is a really fun event.”

Gary Apperson of Wailea Realty Corp. A Boutique of Windermere Real Estate has volunteered to referee the Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament for the past six years (last year, he was crowned the 2019 Bocce Ball Tournament Referee of the Year). He says he’s looking forward to calling the shots at this year’s event. “Even though it is a competition and the teams really get into it, it’s the camaraderie of all the participants that makes it fun and entertaining,” he said.

Shannon Cortez’s company, First Hawaii Title Corp., is a corporate sponsor of the event for the second year in row. The mission of the Aloha BackPack Buddies program is what inspires Cortez and her colleagues to support the tournament. “The children are our future,” she said. “I have a family of four and I have been blessed to not have to worry about feeding my family, but the reality is there are many families that do and it is right in our backyard. To play just a small part in ensuring these kids have meals is why we will always support this tournament and its cause.”

Last year’s tournament raised more than $22,000 for the Aloha BackPack Buddies program. Twenty-four teams have pledged to play again this year. If you’re not registered to play, you can cheer on contestants from the sidelines or make a donation to the Aloha BackPack Buddies program. Any amount helps—and it will make a difference in the effort to end childhood hunger. Corporate sponsorships are also available. Sponsors who contribute $147 will receive a 24-inch by 18-inch sign with their company’s logo; the signs will be on display during the tournament.

Cortez encourages others to consider sponsoring or volunteering at this year’s event. “I have taken part as both a player and a volunteer,” she said. “From both ends it is so much fun. Seeing everyone come together to enjoy all the company in a relaxed setting is great—and all for a great cause. It couldn’t get much better than that.”

Apperson agrees wholeheartedly. “If you like hanging out with people who are there to have fun in a spirited competition and you like to help others who are less fortunate, this will be the best half day you can spend giving back,” he said. “You’ll be hooked when it’s over and will be looking forward to next year.”

To learn more about the Aloha BackPack Buddies Bocce Ball Fundraising Tournament or inquire about donor, sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, contact Patrick Kilbride at 264-4289 or For more information about the Maui Food Bank, visit

The Maui News – January 27, 2020

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