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Lifestyle // Good Neighbors
Christina O’Connor

Wendy Loh

This Sunday, hundreds of competitors will descend upon the Blaisdell with the hope of building the best gingerbread house in the 13th annual Gingerbread Family Festival. Contestants have been busy preparing for weeks – brainstorming ideas and devising plans. Among them is three-time champion Wendy Loh and her company team Juice Plus Aloha.

Loh has been involved with the event for years, starting when she would bring her children to build houses when they were younger.

“It’s so much fun, and it’s a bonding time for the whole family,” says Loh, now the owner and wellness consultant at Juice Plus Aloha.

The event is designed to raise funds and awareness for Easter Seals Hawaii and it’s that mission that keeps Loh coming back every year. She got involved with the competition side of the festival 15 years ago while she was working as the owner of Kona Paradise Candies.

“Christmas was such a busy time for the chocolate factory, so I thought there was no way we could do the competition,” Loh says. “But then I realized how much fun it was and that it was a donation for the children.”

Easter Seals is a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities and special needs and their families through education, outreach and advocacy. The organization also provides services that include child care, early intervention and in-home care for older adults. Easter Seals Hawaii is one of more than 500 sites throughout the country.

“(The funds) are going to stay in Hawaii and go into programs that benefit both children and adults in the Easter Seals programs,” explains Loh, who also is involved with other Easter Seals events and serves on this year’s Gingerbread Festival planning committee.

“(Easter Seals) is all about treating everyone with respect and dignity so that they can thrive,” says Loh.

Loh’s Juice Plus Aloha team has a record of coming up with creative house designs – and even coordinating costumes to match the theme – and they’re aiming to win again this year. “The best part about winning is, of course, there is the title, but the award itself is pictures from the residents from the Easter Seals programs. Getting their (pictures) and putting them on your wall, I think that’s the best trophy that anyone can bring home.”

The festival also welcomes non-competitors to join in, and families are encouraged to support Easter Seals and construct gingerbread houses alongside the competitors. Gingerbread house kits are available for $39. Houses may be constructed at the Blaisdell that day from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. or from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., or kits are available for pick up. Friday is the deadline to reserve kits. Kits also will be available at the door. Visit eastersealshawaii.org or call 529-1708.

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