June 25, 2019
And that’s a wrap!
With tears in our eyes and love in our hearts we squeezed our kiddos goodbye and sent them into the Lihue airport tonight. We have had an amazing last couple of days that really ended our trip with a bang! We, as leaders, will be the first to say that we are changed forever because of your kids and we couldn’t feel more thankful to have them in our lives now.
But before we get all teary again, we feel it necessary to unpack the last few amazing days! Saturday began early as we loaded up the van that we affectionately named Chungus and drove to a secluded beach where we grabbed a few boards and learned how to surf! Everyone paddled out to the waves and though everyone’s balance wasn’t amazing to begin with, in no time we were up on our boards smiling big and throwing up shakas. Kathryn, Josh, and Sam especially blew us out of of the water with their surfing skills as they caught nearly every wave that came their way. After we finished up shredding the gnar we all headed up to Chungus where we each scarfed down turkey Ceasar wraps. We dubbed this lunch one of the favorites of the trip as we all reached for second and thirds that satisfied our hunger.
From our secluded surfing beach we headed into the town of Hanalei where we went to a local thrift shop to buy special outfits for our Banquet the next night and walk around the beautiful town. Everyone left with a new outfit and a belly full of laughter. We stopped at a local ice cream shop halfway through the day to cool ourselves down from the hot Hawaiian sun and then continued our town day. We loved mixing it up with the locals in Hanalei as we dipped in and out of local boutiques, all the while enjoying a luscious mountain range that bordered us on one side and a quaint river on the other.
That evening, we feasted as a family in preparation for the long day of kayaking that lay ahead of us. When we finally reached our kayaking section of the Napali Coast, we could hardly contain our excitement! We rose with the sun and bussed to our put in with smiles of anticipation. After our graduation from “paddle school”, we were ready for the coast. Within our first ten feet of paddling, a curious monk seal popped his head out of the water to wish us good luck! We knew we were in for a treat.
Despite the daunting challenge of 17 miles that lay ahead of us, our group took every stroke head on and powered through. Under the guidance of our amazing outfitters, we hugged the coast line as we weaved in and out of natural cave openings that revealed a whole new world of beauty. It was hard to keep our jaws from dropping throughout the numerous hours of adventure. Whenever our group needed an extra boost, Max, Emma, and Karlie provided us with positive encouragement that produced unending laughter and an added bit of excitement that uplifted our whole gang.
We paddled through all sorts of natural beauty, including pods of playful dolphins, massive turtles, and daring mountain goats that called out to us as they climbed the steep cliffs along side of us. We couldn’t believe the sheer size of the black cliffs and shires that rose beside us that were textured with massive trees and waterfalls.
We stopped on a beach within a protected cove for lunch where we caught our breath and prepared for our last push. We are proud to say that every member of our group crushed this tough undertaking of a day and came out stronger and closer than ever! Upon our arrival to the final beach that we docked our boats on, Gabby, Will, and Bella led our group in a collective celebration where we shared our favorite highlights with each other. These three had our group howling with laughter as they wallowed in the crash zone of the waves where they jokingly dodged the oncoming surf with the last bits of their energy. Briggs took the initiative to search for shark teeth on the beach as well as a lively activity. The rest of the afternoon kayaking was beautiful, but most importantly, incredibly rewarding as we had conquered 17 miles!
Once we unloaded our gear and made it back to the van, it was time for our final banquet dinner! Clothed in our recent thrift store purchases, our group sat down and enjoyed a hearty feast that replenished our exhausted bodies. We weren’t too tired to still have the time of our lives! Anna helped our group reminisce on the great times that we had as she recounted some of our favorite memories on the trip. After snapping a group picture, we traveled back to our campsite for one last stay at our beachfront oasis.
We decided to reward ourselves after a long day Kayaking the coast by sleeping in as late as we possibly could. Although we all had intentions to sleep late, our beautiful beach front camp sites lured us out of our tents much earlier. We celebrated our last morning together by whipping up chocolate chip pancakes and eating fresh mango and pineapple! After we were full, we quickly packed up all of our belongings and then spent every moment we could with each other, soaking up the last sweet moments. For lunch we split up into 3 teams and with all the rest of our food played Iron Chef! Although all the groups made creative lunches, group one came out on top with their pasta salad. After our last meal together, we awarded each student with a witty superlative that celebrated our time together, and each of them gave us one as well! Maeve quickly took initiative in announcing the leader superlatives and had us belly laughing. It was a great moment to end our trip together.
As our time as a group was coming to a close we all loaded up in Chungus and drove down the road that parallels the Hawaiian coast and sang loudly together with the windows down. As “Country Roads, Take Me Home” came on we all felt as if the trip had come full circle as we reminisced on the first day together when we all sang that same song together just two weeks ago. The goodbyes at the airports were full of tears but not one person said goodbye, but simply, see you later!
Guys, we’ve have the time of our lives with you in these past two weeks and feel so lucky that you all have dropped into our lives in the best way. Every single one of you is special and unique in your own way and that is pretty amazing. We’ve had a whole lot of good times together and can’t wait to see what you’re going to go on an accomplish in your life!
Bonnie, Stewart, and Natalie
June 22, 2019
Aloha Hawaiian Island families!!!
We are sending our love and joy to you from the beautiful “garden island” of Kauai! Upon our arrival, we have spent every waking moment with open eyes and a sense of excitement as we take in the spanning mountain ranges that occupy the center of the island. We have learned to appreciate the local ways of navigating the island through the terms “mauka”, meaning towards the mountain, and “makai”, meaning towards the sea. We are beginning to feel like locals on the island!
We kicked off our time in Kauai with two days of community service work at the Waipa foundation. As we arrived to Waipa’s spanning property, our collective jaws dropped at the beautiful landscape that they occupied. They farm a plethora of crops that are spread out throughout the initial fields that you see upon arrival. Later during our time there, we toured the property by foot and were able to observe groves of bamboo, trees of lychee, coconuts, and mountain apples, groves of white pineapples, and rows of various vegetables that are all farmed fresh by their staff year-round. Beyond the office buildings and farmland lies a striking mountain range that boarders the property and offers a gorgeous backdrop.
Our first day of service began with a briefing on the structure of Waipa’s foundation and a description of how our group’s work will help in their overall plans for the year.
We started our service work off by painting the lumbar for an upcoming shed that will serve as a holding facility for the harvested crops on the property. After our group shared some laughs and made some great progress on our paint job, we took our lunch on a nearby beach with a top-notch view. After we finished a feast of beachfront sandwiches, Bella and Anna led our group in our first of many rounds of Mafia that left our group howling with laughter.
We returned to Waipa with full bellies and joined our new point person, Matt, who led us up a mountain trail as he gave us some insight about the land and its connection to Hawaiian culture. Our small hike led us to a mountain stream that is central to the area’s watershed, which Waipa relies heavily on. That day’s task involved clearing out the area in an attempt to restore the production of the mountain.
That evening, we returned to our beachfront campsite where we enjoyed an outstanding acoustic performance from Briggs while Josh rallied the crew to join up on some beach games before cooling off in the turquoise blue ocean. That night, everyone felt replenished after a good day of working hard as we enjoyed some grade-A bbq chicken from our cook crew!
The next morning was a perfectly brisk and clear one. We jumpstarted our day early with a hearty breakfast of cinnamon rolls and hash browns that gave the group plenty of energy for a fun filled day. We can tell that they all have servants’ hearts by the way that they anticipated getting back to serving the Waipa community for the second day, which is awesome to see as leaders! We began our second morning at the Waipa Foundation finishing up our painting from the day before. The whole group was so enthusiastic about the activity that we got it finished quickly and were able to move on to our next activity soon after. After painting, we embarked on a hike around Waipa Foundation’s impressive campus. Everyone displayed such upbeat attitudes that were contagious and continued to positively impact us as leaders and each other. Sam and Maeve displayed incredible leadership skills as they led the group through the valley. The hike led us along a ridge line which looked over rolling green hills on our left and expansive ocean to our right. Our guides pointed out the fields of taro below us, a plant sacred to the Hawaiians. The lookout at the end of the hike was well worth the work we put in to get there. As we lingered and stared off into the stunning landscape, we could feel the group connection and loved to see them bond over such a special moment.
In the afternoon, we were greeted with working gloves and got the opportunity to work in the Waipa valley in order to eradicate invasive plant species in the riverbeds. Even in the sun, the group continued to banter and laugh together while contributing to a community different from their own. Gabby, Max, and Will even seized the opportunity to jump in a swimming hole nearby, which led for an awesome photo opportunity and quick cool down. After two days of service in the Waipa valley, we certainly feel more connected to the Hawaiian culture and community than before.
Upon arrival at our campsite after a long day, our group bolted towards the sand as we each enjoyed a leisurely beach afternoon by the water. Karlie, Emma, and Kathryn whipped up a new crowd favorite, quinoa bowls, for dinner. As we sat on the beach and enjoyed our dinner, we watched the sunset and laughed over funny stories told by Will. His antics constantly have the group laughing. We reflected as a group on our experience over the last two days at the Waipa Foundation and how special it was to be able to give back to a community that is giving so much to us as well. I believe we can speak for the whole group and say that it was a very rewarding experience and we can’t wait for what’s to come within the next few days!
Everyone is beginning to realize we only have just a few short days together and we have all agreed to make the most of it! The group seems to be treasuring our moments together a little more which just confirms that we have an all star group. Tonight, we are going to bed dreaming about the waves we will soon catch in the morning! With half the group new to surfing and the other eager to continue perfecting the sport, we can’t think of any better way to spend one of our last days together.
Aloha and mahalo,
Stewart, Natalie, and Bonnie
June 20, 2019
Aloha , Moondance families!
We are writing to check in after yet another wonderful few days of adventure on the islands of Hawaii! Our family continues to grow closer with the passing of each day and it’s hard to believe how much we’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time! It’s become a theme within our group for Will to exclaim that “today is officially the best day ever.” In this case, he certainly speaks for our collective group!!
On Tuesday, we awoke to a multicolored sunrise that included a sweet surprise for the whole group: DOLPHINS! Sam and Max grabbed their snorkeling gear and hopped in the ocean to get a closer look. After spending some quality time with a number of the oceans most majestic creatures, they returned to shore and gave us a first hand account of the unexpected dive. Both Karlie and Kathryn greeted them warmly on the shore as they were enjoying the sunrise and peace of the beautiful morning.
With this boost of morale behind us and smiles on our faces, we set off to conquer the steep hills of the Waipi’o Valley. Our hike through the valley brought us to a spectacular inlet beach where we paused to enjoy a picnic lunch. Here, we marveled at the surrounding igneous cliffs carved by ranging waterfalls that dumped their contents into the Pacific Ocean right before our eyes. What a magnificent way to end a hike! As we approached the black sand beach, Emma kept the group entertained and motivated as the day’s Leader of the Day, which she embraced with enthusiasm. She took our group on an impromptu tour of the natural landscape around us that ranged from thick canopies to winding rivers.
We ended the day with a feast of chicken pesto pasta prepared by Bella, Gabby, and Max. This meal prep included an involved presentation that had us clamoring to fill our plates with a delicious dinner. Thanks to this awesome cook crew!!!
The day finally came to travel to Kaua’i, an island we have heard many amazing things about and can not wait to explore further. We arrived at the airport early which gave us some time to enjoy the fresh atmosphere of Kona‘s open-air airport. The group took advantage of the many picnic tables and Maeve as LOD coordinated a few fun games to pass the time. Our first and second flights had everyone staring out of the airplane windows at the picturesque, rocky coastlines and endless ocean. Both flights went so smoothly and everyone had such a positive attitude the entire day, making a travel day go by with ease and enjoyment.
As we touched down into Kaua’i, we could already tell this island is special and we can’t wait to make so many memories here. Driving to our campsite was an adventure as well, as the landscape and environment is noticeably different from the Big Island. We drove past tall, rolling mountains and lush foliage that captured everyone’s attention. The car ride would not have been complete without a few loud singalongs and car games, which spurred further excitement about our new phase of the trip. The positive attitudes and energetic eagerness our group displays keeps us on our toes and continues to impress and encourage us.
With our arrival to our new site has further developed the collective joy that we share here, as we are fortunate enough to enjoy a beachfront lot that includes favorable weather and a beautiful backdrop of mountains that regularly capture our gaze. As if things couldn’t get better, Josh, Anna, and Briggs put together a dinner of Pad Thai that had our group licking their plates clean in the end. The standard for our cook crews continues to rise! We finished our day with our toes in the sand as we witnessed a beautiful orange moonrise that was accompanied with numerous shooting stars.
Enough from us- the kids have a few shoutouts to home from the islands!
Gabby: “Hi fam! I miss you guys so much, Hawaii has been amazing and so warm! Love you, chummy”
Will: “Hey guys. I’ve decided to stay forever, love you (kidding miss y’all)”
Max: “Love you guys I’m having a great time and making a lot of friends :)”
Bella: “Love and miss y’all! I’m having so much fun and can’t wait to see y’all & Eddie”
Karlie: “Hey family! I’m having an amazing time in Hawai’i! I love you and miss you so much!”
Josh: “Hey guys, I’m having a great time. Miss y’all and can’t wait to see y’all”
Kathryn: “Hey y’all, happy late Father’s day! Love y’all!”
Emma: “Hey guys! Miss you guys so much and Hawaii is really fun! Love you so much!”
Maeve: “Hi! Miss y’all so much! I can’t wait to see and talk to y’all! Tell everyone I love them!”
Briggs: “Hi! I can’t wait to see you guys again. I’ve been loving camping out here in Hawaii. Tell Murphy I said hi!”
Anna: “I miss y’all so much and I’ll see you so soon! Love you!”
Sam: “Hey! I am having a great time. See you soon!”
Our whole group continues to amaze us with their energy and strong friendships. We have so many fun adventures coming up, and we can’t wait to keep you all posted about it all! We are certain we will continue to have more “best days ever” on Kaua’i!
Natalie, Bonnie, and Stew
June 18, 2019
We are so excited to check in after an amazing couple of days on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our group has grown so close through our ongoing adventures and we are so excited to have even more fun ahead of us! We’ve spent the majority of our time underwater as we’ve explored the bright blue waters along side manta rays, octopi, flounder, starfish, and many other beautiful, exotic creatures.
Our early days in the ocean kicked off with one of the coolest activities you can ever be involved with: snorkeling with manta rays. We took a beautiful sunset boat ride along the coast to our diving site. Upon our arrival, we watched the sun disappear behind the peaks of Maui as we geared up for some underwater adventure! Under the supervision of our guides, we piloted surfboards that illuminated the water below us as we held on for the ride. The vibrant light attracted schools of plankton that swarmed in conglomerates beneath us. After no time at all, we spotted massive rays swooping in to feast just beneath us, which is a sight that is truly indescribable. Our entire group gasped in awe and found it hard to contain our boundless excitement. We later reflected on the highlight of exuberant laughter that could be heard all around that accompanied each arrival of a new curious ray that performed backflips under our collective gaze. Sam had a great view of the action as he dove down in front of our group to lead our night of fun. When we eventually reconvened on the boat, he emerged from the water with a contagious grin that took hours to diminish.
The next day we embarked on a four day journey to learn the ropes behind SCUBA diving! All we can say is that it has been an absolute blast! Everyone was so ready to get in the water and learn a new life changing skill while having a blast. Karlie especially had an amazing upbeat and positive attitude the entire time and quickly mastered her skills while encouraging the group to join in with her. We have no doubt she could become a scuba diving star later in life!
We began our four diving days with two days in the pool and then finished up the last two days exploring the beautiful marine life that existed in the water surrounding Hawaii. Kathryn was always ready for a quick underwater picture that looks like it could be on the cover of National Geographic! During our several days, the whole group was exposed to a wide variety of fascinating marine life and an entire new perspective. Emma’s keen eyes discovered a sea friendly turtle which delighted the group and set a positive tone for the day. Maeve and Briggs achieved their Advanced Scuba certification and were able to excel within the group of newly certified divers.
After our long and exciting days of diving, heading back to our beach campsite certainly was relaxing. Our gelato stop proved to be an instant hit, and Gabby has gotten the chance to realize she is an ice cream enthusiast, helping the group decide upon flavors. Anna kept the group constantly laughing with her antics which energized the rest of the group. She’s always ready to sprout laughter with a well timed story or a joke. There’s never a dull moment with this crew! We finished each afternoon with a few intense games of Spikeball, where Josh, Maeve, and Max brought the competition. On day five, our whole group was mesmerized by the most picturesque sunset, and it was such a special moment to share together. We all sat on the lava rocks near our campsite and took it all in. Bella was prepared for the perfect photo opportunity and snapped some incredible group pictures. Will was on cook crew that night and helped whipped up some jambalaya that was an absolute crowd pleaser, and he added some extra spunk and personality to the job, as he always does.
As our first week together comes to a close we cannot help but look back at all the memories we’ve made with the fullest of hearts. The relationships that have forged between every single person on this trip have amazed all three of us. We are each feeling truly lucky that we have found a group of people who we love greatly and love us right back. We cannot wait to start the next week full force and make even more amazing memories together.
Aloha and Mahalo,
Stew, Bonnie, and Nat
June 14, 2019
Aloha to everyone from the beaches of the Big Island!
We are off to a fantastic start as a group of eager adventurers and have already made great strides in forming a family. Our time spent together has been saturated with laughter, exploration, and close conversation. Our trip began with a long time spent at the Kona International Airport where we wasted no time in getting to know one another as the excitement of a well anticipated Moondance trip set in. We left the airport and traveled to our first campsite which boasted a beachfront property with rolling black sand beaches bordered by beautiful rock cliffs. That night, we enjoyed our first Moonup as a group where we elected our first two LODs, or Leaders of the Day: Josh and Gabby. They started the trip with an awesome attitude that percolated throughout the group. As leaders, they have set the tone for what it means to put the group first and buy in to the spirit of Moondance. People can’t get enough of these two! As our first full day together began, Max, Sam, and Will jumped at the opportunity to be on our breakfast cook crew and whip up some delicious eats. Max was a bacon frying master while Sam and Will scrambled more eggs than any of us had ever seen before.
By the time the cooking was done everyone was excited to eat what the three boys had made for us. With happy hearts and full tummies we cleaned up camp and headed to our first activity, excited for what the day had in store for us! We ventured in the van for a few hours, playing some exciting car games and catching glimpses of some incredible coastal scenery. Bella was a rockstar at playing Contact, a fun guessing game, during the road trip where she kept us laughing constantly. Karlie and Kathryn kept us entertained throughout the drive with their song choices that were consistent crowd-pleasers and caused for some loud sing-alongs. As we drove toward our destination everyone sang loud to Take Me Home, Country Roads. The lyric “mountain mamma” came at the perfect time as we drove straight towards the beautiful rolling hills of Hawaii. This caused all of us leaders to get chills and turn to each other silently and agree that THIS was a moment to never forget. At the Pololu trailhead, we ate some lunch and had an amazing view of the expansive valley right next to the coast. Anna and Bella took advantage of the picture-perfect moment with the background and had a photoshoot. We followed their lead and took some great shots of the whole group! From there, we turned our adventure to a nearby beach, which was made up of unbelievably soft sand, warm beaches, and a distant view of the peaks on Maui. We spent some time enjoying the warm water until we returned to the beach for some fun group games, spearheaded by Emma, Briggs and Maeve. Briggs emerged as a ninja champion as he put his dexterity and speed to the test. Maeve and Emma came out on top as she put her heart and soul into our new favorite game, bunny bunny, and left the group howling with laughter on the soft, white sandy shore. These two brought an already amazing day to a new level and we couldn’t help but leave that beach feeling more whole and ready to take on the rest of our itinerary, but not without an extra stop at a beautiful scenic outlook that overlooked a new section of the igneous shoreline.
Tomorrow morning, we will begin our day bright and early and meet up with our scuba diving instructors. We could not be more excited to see some awesome marine life, get scuba certified, and make some lifelong memories during the next few days! We miss everyone at home but can’t wait to check in in a few days!
Aloha and Mahalo, Stewart, Bonnie, and Natalie
June 13, 2019
Hello Hawaiian Islands Families!
We heard from our leaders last night, and all students have arrived safely in Hawaii! We cannot wait to share more news from their adventure.
– Moondance HQ