Giving Back in Style at Imua Ball Fundraiser Gala
More than 500 members of the Maui community turned out in costume to support Imua Family Services at a sold-out Fundraiser Gala on March 30, 2019. Held in the Monarchy Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, the gala is noted for its high level of community giving for Imua, a non-profit organization that provides services for young children with developmental difficulties and support for their families.
“Jackie Robinson said: ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,’” said Gunars Valkirs, full-time West Maui resident, CEO of Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate, Inc. and Honorary Chair, with his wife JoRene, of this year’s gala.
“When I heard that quote, it stuck. It seems obvious for lives that are closely intertwined such as family members or close friends, but I think the words were meant to inspire each of us to have an impact on the lives of people that we do not know.”
Valkirs announced a $30,000 grant by Makana Aloha Foundation, his family foundation, to support services at Imua’s West Maui Office. In addition, he announced an annual grant to Imua starting in 2020 from the soon-to-open company Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate, Inc. The amount of the grant will be dependent on the company’s net retail profits and is expected to increase annually.
The news of MKEC’s plan to donate 100% of its net profit to Maui charities and non-profits was met with enthusiastic response from the gala crowd. The plan is a unique business model, and Valkirs hopes that it will inspire others “to give more if they can, or to create something similar that will enable them to give more.”
This year’s Gala fundraiser presented three legacy awards to community members and organizations in honor of their commitment to our island community. The “Legacy Commitment Award” was given to Brian Kakihara, senior vice president and regional manager of First Hawaiian Bank; the “Outstanding Community Partner” award was given to First Hawaiian Bank; and the “Pediatrician of the Year” award was given to Felicitas Livaudais, M.D. Hermine Harman won the “Best Costume” award for a dress made by the Jennifer Oberg Atelier studio.
Dean Wong, executive director of Imua Family Services, expressed his appreciation for the Maui community’s support for Imua’s needs. In particular, he praised the responsiveness of Makana Aloha Foundation.
“From the time that I reached out to become involved in the growth and expansion of the organization, there was immediate support,” Wong said. “It has been amazing to watch Gunars’ dream come to life while simultaneously supporting the growing vision and mission of Imua Family Services.”
Imua’s annual Gala is one of Maui’s largest events. This year’s theme saw more than 95% of its guests disguised in elaborate costumes and masks for a “Carnival de Venice” Mascheranda Grand Ball. The event echoed the intrigue of the traditional Carnival, which is held every year in Venice, Italy, and is world-famous for its elaborate masks, masquerade balls, and the air of mystery swirling along the misty canals of this ancient floating city.
Historically, people celebrated Carnival in sinful excess until Lent, at which time they would have to give up their vices for 40 days. Those sinful excesses included the joys of fine food and wine—which were very much in evidence at the Grand Ball!
Entertainment is also a cherished part of Carnival, and the Gala had plenty. Earning the biggest applause were two IMUA keiki who sang, “This is Me.” The evening featured special performances by the Hawai‘i Opera Theatre and a noteworthy performance by Denée Benton. Benton is an American actor and singer best known for her Tony-nominated role of Natasha Rostova in the musical “Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812” on Broadway with Josh Groban. She is currently performing in Broadway’s “Hamilton” as Eliza Hamilton.
Maui Mayor Mike Victorino commended Imua for the success of its fundraiser gala. “My lovely wife Joycelyn and I had a wonderful time at this event for a very worthy cause,” Victorino said. “It was great to see that a lot of money was raised for Imua Family Services, which provides essential services to people who need help. Maui’s non-profits provide an important safety net for our most needy residents.”
All Gala attendees were given a certificate from Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate, Inc. to redeem an 18-piece, gift box of chocolate when the Lahaina chocolate factory opens later this year.