By Sarah Ruppenthal

When the sun goes down on Saturday, Nov. 4, the Maui Nui Golf Club in Kihei will come alive with lights and laughter as dozens of costumed contestants take the field to raise money for a good cause.

There’s still time to register a four-player team for the fifth annual Montessori Hale O Keiki (MHOK) Full Moon Bocce Ball Bash, a 21-and-over tournament that will raise funds for the school’s educational and tuition aid programs. In addition to five games of round-robin play and a glow-in-the-dark championship game, there will be prizes, a silent auction and dinner by Kono’s on the Green. Team costumes are encouraged.

MHOK is South Maui’s only nonprofit, independent school for students in pre-Kindergarten through the eighth grade. MHOK began as a preschool in 1991, and over the years, with the help of private donations, the school added an elementary school, upper school and middle school. According to the North American Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA), there are approximately 4,500 Montessori schools in the U.S. and about 20,000 worldwide. The “Montessori Method,” a philosophy developed by Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori, takes a child-centered approach to education. Montessori schools encourage students to become independent, confident learners in a structured environment where attention is given to a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. The bocce ball tournament is one of the school’s annual fundraisers, along with its “Tinsel Town Nights Gala.”

Since the tournament began five years ago, several Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members have signed up to play—and it’s something they look forward to every year.

“Raiders of the Lost Balls” team member Roger Pieski of Wailea Realty Corp. A Boutique of Windermere Real Estate is eager for some friendly competition at this year’s tournament. “We have participated two years in a row,” he said. “The costumes and team names are funny and it is a nice night out under the lights with food and a cash bar.”

Napua Banks of Coldwell Banker Island Properties and her teammates (the team is sponsored by her husband’s company, Banks Pacific Construction, Inc.) are also gearing up for another spirited tournament. “We enjoy giving back to the community by participating in ‘fun fundraisers,’” she said. “We bond with friends and employees on our team and have some healthy competition amongst our coworkers or industry competitors.”

And at the end of the day, it’s really all about the kids. “Most Mauians are falsely under the impression that all the children attending Montessori come from wealthy families,” said Dennis Rush of Elite Pacific Properties, who served on MHOK’s board of directors for six years. “The truth is actually quite the opposite. Each year, as a board member, we made decisions based upon the funds raised and the income of the families, as quantified by tax returns and bank account records, as to whom would receive aid from the school. This allows each qualified child the ability to attend Montessori no matter their financial status. It is extremely important for our Maui children to receive the education they deserve and we believe the Montessori system gives them that opportunity. Montessori is a very unique school system that allows each child to learn according to their abilities.”

Rush, Pieski and Banks all agree that this is one event you shouldn’t miss. “It’s a good time for all,” Banks said. “Great team building and fundraising at the same time.”

Rush agrees. “I hope people, especially in South Maui, will help Montessori Hale O Keiki, since the survival and growth of the school is dependent upon their contributions,” he said. “The entire island will benefit.”

And if you can’t make it to this year’s tournament, you can always sign up to be a sponsor or donate prizes. For more information about Montessori Hale O Keiki and the fifth annual Full Moon Bocce Ball Bash or to learn more about sponsorship or donor opportunities, call (808) 874-7441. To register your four-person team, visit http://mhokbocce17.eventbrite.com.

Originally published in The Maui News – October 21, 2017

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