Visitor Industry Walk Raises $1.6M

This is the one walk where you can put on pounds | Cindy Ellen Russell / Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo

Local folks are very generous, supporting so many causes in the community, from Aloha United Way to educational institutions and the neighborhood sports club.

One of the most successful examples of island-style generosity is the Visitor Industry Charity Walk, organized annually by Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association.

Held throughout the Islands on consecutive Saturdays each May, the Charity Walk brings together the visitor industry and public-spirited businesses and others to raise funds that benefit local charities.

It remains Hawaii’s largest single-event fundraiser. This year’s event was another record-setter, generating $1,671,436 to date and counting. A remarkable 14,736 walkers turned out to support it statewide. Each island’s walk featured entertainment, great food from hotels and restaurants, and a load of fun.

Hawaii Island raised $228,119; Kaua’i, $200,992; Lanai, $26,003; Maui, $701,716; Molokai, $62,606, and Oahu, $452,000.

The Charity Walk has generated $26 million since its inception in 1978, all of which has stayed in Hawaii for local causes.

Less than a year removed from my stint as president and CEO of Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, I can attest to the incredible support this event receives from throughout the visitor industry, associated businesses, nonprofit organizations and the community at large.

I recall that we set fundraising and participation records in 2011 and 2012, making this latest achievement a tribute to the association and the visitor industry and a demonstration of how much they care about our community. The results of this collective effort continue to make a difference to the hundreds of nonprofits that support people across the state.

Tina Yamaki, who will be leaving HLTA as its executive director to accept another challenging opportunity in the visitor industry, has been involved with the Charity Walk for 23 years.

As the heart and soul of the walk for all these years, she’s quick to point out that companies and organizations get actively involved and contribute to the success because “it’s an exciting and enjoyable community event that brings employees together to work toward a common goal of helping those in need.”

It’s worth noting that Maui Hotel & Lodging Association, an HLTA affiliate, led the state in fundraising for the fourth consecutive year, with more than $790,000 raised among Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Like the other chapters, Maui’s visitor industry employees began their quest early by collecting pledges, hosting bake sales, chili and stew cookoffs, washing cars, and organizing other creative fundraisers.

Lisa Paulson, executive director of Maui Hotel & Lodging Association, shared the secret to Maui County’s success: “We’re a small, tight-knit community that comes together for a great cause like the Charity Walk because we know that the funds raised will enable us to take care of each other.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Nate Fong, a case manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters, one of the many benefactors of the Charity Walk proceeds.

Nate says it’s easy to volunteer for the Oahu walk, as he has for the past decade, because the Charity Walk is “fun, uplifting and provides a very positive experience.”

If you’re is looking for a prime example of civic leadership and generous support for the community, look no further than the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s Visitor Industry Charity Walk.

Next year’s 36th annual walk will be held in May, and everyone is welcome again to enjoy everything the visitor industry has to offer.