The island of Maui has recently been ravaged by some of the most destructive wildfires it has ever faced. Lahaina, one of its beautiful tourist destinations, has been nearly wiped out, leaving families in distress and their future uncertain.
A Heartbreaking Situation
Amid this heartbreaking situation, an unexpected glimmer of hope emerged as a group of around 20 Maui pickleballers from Aloha Pickleball participated in the Founders tournament on Bainbridge Island, Washington state.
Facing the harrowing reality of missing loved ones and lost homes, the Kitsap Daily News reported how the Maui pickleball community has found solace in the camaraderie and distraction that pickleball offered.
Laurie Loney, a Maui pickleball ambassador, expressed the bittersweet sentiment:
“It’s heartwrenching because so many people are missing, houses are gone, and it is tough to play… we have been supporting each other and are doing it for Maui.”
Talking about Bainbridge and Maui, Loney said they were both small islands, but Maui just does not have the same pickleball “history as Bainbridge Island.”
Solace And Renewed Purpose
Although the wildfires forced a few Maui players to return home instead of participating in the tournament, others were able to take part.
Marsha Sarver shared her perspective: “My house has been on the ready. But, I came to Bainbridge since I work at Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, and we have a sister campus on Bainbridge Island. It makes sense for me to do some work and play in the tournament.”
Aloha and Mahalo to the Pickleball Ohana and beyond for all the love, prayers, and support for those affected by the devasting fires on Maui. Below is a partial list of organizations who are collecting donations. Please give generously; our hearts go out to our Maui community – pic.twitter.com/F7rOZCV38c— Aloha Pickleball (@AlohaPickleball) August 12, 2023
Warmth And Support
The warmth and support from the Bainbridge community have been a lifeline for the Maui players. Stacy Shirley, another Maui pickleball enthusiast, shared her gratitude:
“People are super nice, and it is really wonderful. When we showed up to the courts, people were hugging me that I don’t know, and it feels like we have known each other forever.
Beyond the court, the Founders Tournament organizers played a role in promoting Maui pickleball nonprofits dedicated to supporting families affected by the wildfires. In the face of adversity, the pickleball community stood together.
“It was devastating news when I heard and was trying to play on Wednesday,” Loney said. “I could barely play. However, everyone I have talked to worries about Maui, and it’s been very comforting.”
A Temporary Escape
For these Maui players, pickleball became a refuge amidst the turmoil, offering a temporary escape from their harsh reality. “It is a nice respite, and we can all be together, loving each other, hugging each other, and playing with Aloha,” added Shirley.
Although the Maui pickleballers acknowledged the difficulty in escaping their island’s grim circumstances, they found hope and determination in the prospect of returning home with medals from the tournament. “We are looking forward to those gold medals,” Shirley expressed with optimism.
The Maui pickleball community’s unity, resilience, and unwavering spirit shine as a testament to the power of sports to uplift and heal even in the darkest times.
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