Mile Long Lei headed to Paris from Maui with plenty ALOHA

Less than a week ago Ron Panzo, managing partner of Nalu’s South Shore Grill, and Sherrie Austin, founder of the Cynthia Rose Foundation, were having a conversation about her foundation’s mission – “to inspire and sustain kindness and joy by supporting the needs of individuals and communities.” Within minutes of talking, they came up with an idea to make a mile long lei for Paris to remind the world of the things that bind us together.

Almost immediately a website, Facebook page, and posters were created for this initiative and information began spreading throughout the community. By the following day, Panzo and Austin found their project fifty percent covered in costs and received numerous donations of ti-leaf and flowers. Despite their growing momentum, a question still remained, how were they going to get this lei circulated through Paris?

Well, as faith would have it, Panzo crossed paths with a small delegate of emerging youth leaders that afternoon. The delegation of five, all whom are Maui residents, will be representing Hawai’i at the United Nations COP21 negotiations in Paris to share global conversations on climate change and to bring back valuable knowledge aligned towards greater love and care for the earth in practical and effective ways. Panzo called this symbolic collaboration as a “chicken skin” moment for all and instantly knew that their efforts were meant to be.

Mile Long Lei 2

This past Sunday, volunteers started working day and night weaving ti-leaf strand by strand. Yesterday, about 20 volunteers were around to witness the final strand woven for the mile long lei and it was a time of emotional tears, cheering, and hugging. Many there shared of their pride in the people of Maui and how wonderful it felt in uniting to accomplish such a purposeful endeavor.

In all, one hundred and fifty people showed up to Nalu’s South Shore Grill over a 3 day span to assist. One particular volunteer, 8-year-old Nikole Terry of Makawao, came every day to help with a radiant smile and enthusiastic spirit. Another resident, Jessica Brazil of Kihei, became inspired to write a song entitled, “Love is Always the Answer” and shared it for the first time yesterday after the lei was completed.

Panzo and two others leave today to Paris to accompany the lei and plan to convene with the youth delegates once they arrive. The lei consists of 8 parts, each having thirty-three twenty foot strands entwined with a long orchard lei. Organizers say the 8 parts represent each island and will be placed at various sites throughout Paris. They would like to extend a sincere thank you to United Airlines for sponsoring their travel and shipping costs of the lei.

To follow the lei’s journey and witness the exchange of aloha and solidarity with the world, go to or search ‘Lei For Paris’ on Facebook. You can also support our youth delegates by visiting



About Tracie Takatani

Tracie Takatani
Tracie Takatani is Features Editor at MAUIWatch. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from UH Manoa and a Master’s in Human Resource Management from the UH Shilder College of Business. She has done work with Oceanic Time Warner Cable/OC16 and Punish’Um Motorsports TV.

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