On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 25, Kahului Elementary School faculty members gathered for what they likely assumed would be a routine teachers’ meeting. But a surprise awaited them that day: A check for $1,000. It was a bright spot for the elementary school, which suffered a devastating fire last year that burned multiple classrooms and caused an estimated $1.2 million in damage.
The bearers of that unexpected gift were Michelle Bosque of Coldwell Banker Island Vacations and Sarah Sorenson of Whale’s Tail Realty. Bosque is the designated Wishing Well…for Maui Students coordinator for Kahului Elementary School; Sorenson is the founder of the Wishing Well program.
For the past decade, RAM members and Wishing Well coordinators and 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.
In less than two hours, RAM members raised $1,000 for Kahului Elementary School through the Wishing Well program during a recent general membership meeting. And that was one of two gifts the school received through the Wishing Well program: A few weeks earlier, 500 backpacks filled with school supplies were donated to the Wishing Well program by employees of industrial manufacturing company Siemens, which held a conference at the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa. Of the 500 backpacks, 150 were designated for Kahului Elementary School; 150 for Lihikai Elementary School; 100 for Pu‘u Kukui Elementary School; and 100 for Iao Intermediate School.
“Teachers have a very large responsibility in the education of our children and their impact is immeasurable,” Bosque said. “I feel that we should bless and support them in whatever way we are able in order to reduce their burden so they can focus on what they are great at—teaching the future generations.”
Throughout the year, Bosque and her fellow Wishing Well coordinators and volunteers collect and distribute “wish list” items (which run the gamut from pencils to playground balls to scientific calculators to rubber slippers) 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 schools in Maui County and serves approximately 20,000 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.
“I find it rewarding just knowing that we are making a positive impact for Maui students, their parents and the teachers,” Bosque said. “Some families do not have the financial means to provide their children with all the materials they need to learn in school or even money for lunch accounts. Teachers spend so much of their own hard earned money to give back to the children. This is a way that we can help support them and take some of that burden off them. It’s a win-win for all.”
In the past, Wishing Well volunteers held annual 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,” Sorenson 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sarah Ruppenthal
Published in The Maui News – May 26, 2018