The Polynesian Dancers of Michigan perform at the Novi Civic Center Aug. 26 as part of the Luau for Lahaina, which raised money to support victims of the wildfires in Maui.

The Polynesian Dancers of Michigan perform at the Novi Civic Center Aug. 26 as part of the Luau for Lahaina, which raised money to support victims of the wildfires in Maui.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Novi hosts fundraiser for Maui wildfire victims

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published September 6, 2023

 Participants in the Luau for Lahaina make leis after donating money to help the victims of the wildfires.

Participants in the Luau for Lahaina make leis after donating money to help the victims of the wildfires.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


NOVI — The city of Novi, in partnership with the Polynesian Arts Advocacy Council of Michigan, held the “Luau for Lahaina” Aug. 26 at the Novi Civic Center to benefit those affected by the wildfires in Maui.

Lahaina is where the largest of the fires took place. It was the original capital of Hawaii and is centrally rooted in Hawaiian culture.

The event was attended by 176 people and brought in $8,300 as of Sept. 4. All funds were given directly to the hereditary high chiefess of Lahaina, Kumu Hula Kahelelani Lyons Alohikea-Smith, Kumu Hula Ka’ea Lyons and their ohana (family) who are personally stewarding the funds to those most affected in Maui through their nonprofit Halau Ka’eaikahelelani (KIK).

Attendees were able to visit with the Michigan Moana, learn how to make leis, and then were treated to a hula dancing concert by the Polynesian Dancers of Michigan. The performance showcased a variety of different types of hula from across Hawaii and featured guest Tiffanie Zuttermeister, of the Las Vegas Halau Kaleihoku Kuikanani, and students of Novi’s own Halau O’Ku’ukamali’i, under the direction of Pamela Gibson.

“I’m sure many of you here have memories of Lahaina, Maui or Hawaii. And so many of us carry that in our hearts, and we really feel like this is a way to give back, right? Tourism takes a toll on the islands, and those treasured memories there that we have, we owe it to them, the people (of Hawaii),” said Gibson.

Sherry Hirzel, of Washington Township, a member of PAACOM and a virtual speech and language pathologist for the Lahaina school district, spoke of the devastation the fires caused her students, friends, colleagues and the district.

“As many of you know, King Kamehameha III (Elementary School) was destroyed in the fire,” she said through tears. “The schoolyard where I would hear the kids playing and the myna birds chatter is suddenly silent. … So many of my friends were forever changed on Aug. 8. … It has been an emotional and an exhausting two and a half weeks for my friends in Lahaina, but their aloha spirit is strong.”

Hirzel also read a statement from the principal of Lahaina Intermediate, Stacy Bookland.  Bookland lost her house and her boat in the fires and was grateful for the support.

“It is so overwhelming with what we are dealing with and to know we have amazing people near and far supporting us helps to get us through these challenging times. Maui feels the aloha, and it keeps us going,” Bookland stated.

According to Hirzel, the children of Lahaina were scheduled to start school the next day. However, as a result of the fires, the school district had to postpone its in-person start date but was offering distance learning. Only the elementary school burned to the ground. The other schools in the district were spared, but they have to wait to make sure the buildings are structurally sound. However, she said that all staff of the Lahaina school district have been accounted for and are safe. They reportedly were still trying to locate some of their students and their families.

“We are still trying to figure out how we can best service them. But right now what they really need is support emotionally, and that’s our biggest concern at this time,” Hirzel said. “Obviously, they need to get back to some sort of normalcy and structure for academics, but right now we’re just really concerned about their mental health and emotional well-being.”

Hirzel said that she and her husband had visited the district last year. She said she was able to see the school and the homes of her colleagues and students, and could look on a map and know what was gone. She said that as soon as she heard the great banyan tree had been affected, she knew the elementary school was gone, as it was right by it.

The banyan tree is a huge 150-year-old tree that is considered to be symbolic of the strength of Hawaii, Hirzel said. The tree has 58 different root structures to support it, and the people are hoping that the tree will make a comeback, she said.

Gibson said that they knew they were going to do a fundraiser as a school to help the people of Maui. However, after they were asked time and time again by attendees of their show, which travels across the Midwest, where they could donate, they decided to throw the Luau for Lahaina.

“Everywhere we went the weekend after the fire everyone kept saying the same thing; like, where can we donate? Some people just wanted to give us money because they knew we were affiliated, and what I heard from people here in Michigan, specifically, is that they didn’t know where to put their money and wanted to help,” Gibson said. “So that’s why we actually came up with this. Because we realize people here want to help, but there’s nobody telling them where they should help, and I think there’s a feeling like they want to make sure their money gets to people that actually need it. So, that’s why with our connections we know it’s going to go to Maui right to those affected.”

At least 115 people perished in the fires on the Island of Maui Aug. 8.  According to reports, 385 people were still unaccounted for as of the Novi Note’s press time. The Lahaina fire was the largest, covering an estimated 2,170 acres, and as of Sept. 3 was 100% contained, according to a press release from the county of Maui. The Olinda fire, covering an estimated 1,081 acres, was reported to be 90% contained, and the Kula fire, covering an estimated 202 acres, was 95% contained, the release said.

Gibson said the charities that the monies are distributed to throughout Maui are providing supplies to residents. She said they have pop-up tents and make something resembling a store where people can go and get supplies. Many people reportedly are taking shelter in hotels, as tourists are not coming to the island at this time.

It isn’t only people who have been affected by this tragedy. Many pets have been displaced and/or injured. Hirzel said the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Maui Humane Society are also asking for donations.

“The humane society is also asking for donations as well because the things that happened to the animals was pretty horrific, too, and they need help as well,” said Hirzel.  “I know they’re looking for donations to help heal the burns.”

PAACOM is still hoping to reach its goal of $10,000 in donations. To donate, go to To help the animals of Maui, go to

How to help
The following Venmo accounts and links to support Maui wildfire victims were obtained from Sherry Hirzel:

• @Stacy-Bookland. Stacy Bookland is the principal of Lahaina Intermediate school. She lost her house and her boat in the fires.

• @cganer. Charmaine Ganer is the special education teacher at Lahaina Intermediate. Her brother perished in the fires and her house was destroyed. Ganer’s friends have also set up a “Lahaina Strong” T-shirt fundraiser for her and her family. Shirts can be purchased at is a link to a compiled list of verified Venmo accounts for victims of the Maui Wildfires. is a link to a list that Honolulu’s Civil Beat Newspaper has published to help victims of the Maui fires. is the link to support the animals injured in the wildfires.