They say good things come in threes—but sometimes, they come in tens.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, the Wishing Well…for Maui Students program held a “10 for 10” fundraiser, which began in August and ended in September. The fundraiser netted more than $7,200 in cash and school supplies (all in increments of $10), which will enable the Wishing Well program to continue ensuring every student—not to mention, every teacher—has what he or she needs to thrive in the classroom. “The needs in our community are seemingly overwhelming at times—so just imagine what it must be like for parents, grandparents and teachers who are struggling to make ends meet to make sure keiki have the supplies they need to succeed in school,” said Wishing Well founder Sarah Sorenson. “I am so grateful to all who gave what they could to the ‘10 for 10’ campaign. These funds will allow us to continue to give necessary supplies throughout the year to all of our public schools. Each $10 grew 700-fold…a little really does build up to a lot.”

For the past decade, RAM members and Wishing Well volunteers have collected school supplies, slippers, furniture and other items with the goal of improving educational experiences and opportunities for Maui County’s public school students. Many parents are unable to provide the basic items their children need throughout the school year, so the simple act of collecting and distributing school supplies is a game changer for many students—and teachers, too.

Throughout the year, Wishing Well volunteers collect and distribute “wish list” items (which run the gamut from pencils to playground balls to scientific calculators) to teachers and school administrators. The Wishing Well program is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and there are no administrative costs, so 100 percent of everything donated—cash, services and goods—goes directly to the schools. And the Wishing Well’s reach isn’t confined to the island of Maui—it covers all 35 schools in Maui County and serves approximately 22,000 students on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Since it was founded in 2007, the Wishing Well program has collected and contributed more than $1.65 million in goods, services and cash donations to every school in Maui County.

Yes, you read that right: $1.65 million.

It’s clear that Wishing Well volunteers have stayed busy over the past decade. Among other things, they’ve filled five shipping containers bound for Molokai and Lanai; sent truckloads full of furniture and supplies to Hana; quickly rounded up hundreds of floor fans to ward off stifling indoor temperatures at multiple schools during a recent heat wave; and collected thousands of slippers so students would be able to come to school with proper footwear.

The Wishing Well program has certainly come a long way in 10 years, but there’s more work to do, Sorenson said. Financial donations are always needed for larger purchases and “in demand” items. “We collect and distribute school supplies, backpacks and slippers year-round,” Sorenson explained. “Just because school starts in August doesn’t mean extra pencils and filler paper aren’t needed in March.”

For the past eight years, Wishing Well volunteers have held school supply drives at the entrance of the Kmart store in Kahului. But now that the store has closed its doors, Sorenson says donations are more important than ever—and every little bit helps. “Plastic storage containers, gently used office chairs, flat-screen TVs or even clean area rugs are always welcome,” she said. “Of course, cash allows us to purchase the specific educational tools that teachers need. Besides, it is a tax write-off, so everyone benefits.”

Want to make a difference for Maui’s students? Contributions to the Wishing Well program can be made in person at the RAM office, which is located at 441 Ala Makani Street in Kahului, or by visiting www.ilovemauischools.com and making a PayPal donation. Checks should be made out to “RAM Community Foundation” with “Wishing Well” noted in the memo line. Donations are needed year-round and if you’re looking to offload any new or gently used household or office items, call Sorenson at 283-3969. For more information about the Wishing Well…for Maui Students program or to view a list of needed items, visit www.ilovemauischools.com or email Ramcf@ramaui.com.

Written by Sarah Ruppenthal

Published in The Maui News – December 9, 2017

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