July 10, 2019
Aloha friends and families!
We write to you one last time with aching hearts as we bid our family goodbye from the Big Island of Hawaii! We are dumbfounded that it is our last day together after an indescribable two weeks together. The growth that this group has experienced together is truly remarkable and our final goodbyes were some tearjerkers! What a bittersweet goodbye.
Yesterday marked our final full day together as a group. We had such a special surprise to make this day even more memorable: Elizabeth shared her 17th birthday with us! We couldn’t think of any better way to commemorate our final hours together. After a night spent sleeping under an endless array of stars that wooed us to sleep, we awoke with a common goal: to have the best last day ever, and that we did! We began our day with a feast of birthday pancakes topped with funfeti icing prepared by our last all star cook crew consisting of Fiona, Will, Zach and Finn. They went to town with the griddle and spatulas. Elizabeth kicked off her birthday breakfast by blowing out her candles with a huge smile and an invitation to dive in as a group. She rocked a birthday sash and tiara with poise and confidence!! We are so thankful for her decision to share her birthday with us this summer!
After breakfast, our team piled in the van and enjoyed a scenic drive down the coast during which we played our favorite tunes from the trip so far. We finally arrived at our most picturesque outlook of the trip so far. We were ready for our final hike down into the Valley that wound down a beautifully shaded path that paused occasionally to allow a quick look at our progress and a glance at the beautiful valley that spanned from the nearby mountains to the open beach cove that beckoned us from below. When we finally reached the bottom of the hike, everyone offloaded their packs and began enjoying the beautiful black sand beach that separated two towering cliffs in the distance. Mikey and Olivia led our group in some out of this world gymnastics while we did our best to photograph their graceful handstands and dance moves. At any given moment, our whole team wore a cheeky smile that reflected the excitement of our collective group.
We returned to the trail to make our way back to the van behind Anne’s encouragement. She stopped the group periodically throughout the hike to snap some memorable pictures of the whole group that look amazing! Once we returned to the van, we worked our way back towards our campsite one last time. On our way back, we stopped at a local thrift store to gear up for our final banquet dinner together. Maggie spearheaded the group effort with our team’s best purchase of a classic Hawaiian dress that she didn’t take off for the rest of the night. Once we were fully dressed for our exciting evening together, we drove to a local pizza stop. We shared an extra goofy dinner together while our group swapped favorite stories from the trip together until we had eaten to our heart’s content. Before we embarked on our drive back, we couldn’t resist a final photo shoot with a beautiful Hawaiian sunset backdrop.
That evening’s Moonup conversation proved to be the best we ever had. Our final LODs, Jackson and Stewart, directed our Moonup with some amazing quotes and questions that sparked some amazing conversations. Over the course of three hours, our group covered every topic imaginable while reflecting on our appreciation for each other. We filled our time with laughter, tears, and lasting group hugs and served as an amazing finale.
Within the first few days of our trip, we warned the group that this trip would fly by in the blink of an eye and it has done just that. We can’t believe that we had to say goodbye to this incredible group of people today. It tore us apart to bid everyone one last goodbye, which is indicative of how special every individual truly is. We have shared lifelong memories and experiences that can’t be put into words. It is bittersweet days like today that define the success of a trip and we could not feel more full as leaders after having some of the best times of our lives with your wonderful children. They have each made an impact on our lives and we feel the impact and reward that comes with our unbelievable time spent as their leaders. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to all that have made this trip possible. Kiddos, if you’re reading this, WE MISS YOU ALREADY!!!! Mahalo to y’all for being you amazing selves. As we said before, never change! We love you all dearly and can’t wait for our paths to cross sometime so soon.
Stew, Nat, and Bonnie
Hey mom and dad! Thank you so much for allowing me to go on this trip. It’s been an amazing experience and one I will never forget. Cannot wait to see y’all and fill y’all in on everything! -Anne
I had the best trip ever! Thanks for letting me come. Happy birthday dad! See y’all soon!-Mikey
This was the best trip by far! There are so many unforgettable mems from this trip. Thank you for letting me come. See you soon! -Olivia
I had an amazing time! Thank you for sending me on this trip! Love you! -Will
Hello, Thanks so much for letting me go on this trip! I had such an amazing time and am very excited to see y’all soon. -Jackson
Hello, thank you so much for sending me on this trip I had an absolute amazing time. See ya soon. – Stew
Hi guys! I had such an amazing time!! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! Love you guys and see you soon! -Maggie
Hi Mom! The trip was amazing, thank you so much for sending me! See you soon! Love you! -Elizabeth
Hey fam I love and miss y’all! Thank y’all for sending me on the best trip ever I already want it to start all over again! ~ Fi
Thanks so much! See you soon! -Mark Zach
See you soon! Love you guys! -Finn
July 8, 2019
We come to you with full hearts after an amazing four days spent loving life as a family together. Our time spent learning to SCUBA dive was an outstanding way to further our incredible group experience. We grew close with our wonderful SCUBA instructors who became an extension of our happy family. Through our time spent in the classroom, in the diving pool, on the sandy shores, and diving off the boat, we gained so much from their constant guidance and instruction. Upon our completion of this section of our itinerary, it was a tough goodbye to muster up!
We began our first day of SCUBA on the Fourth of July with a hearty breakfast of cinnamon rolls. Our group began the day with red, white, and blue outfits complete with festive leis to make this holiday a particularly Hawaiian one! With full bellies and a pump up drive filled with a sufficiently patriotic playlist, we arrived to complete our first day of SCUBA diving! Everyone took their seats with giddy excitement as we learned what our next four days would entail. After getting situated, we progressed through our introduction to gear and our upcoming lessons. Everyone shone as attentive and capable divers-to-be. By the end of the day, we all felt as if we were beginning to grow gills! That evening held a special surprise for the group: night snorkeling!!!
As the sun began to sink over the Pacific, we boarded our night’s vessel and crowded on the bow of the boat. Our captain took us on a particularly scenic route while the winds whipped our hair. We remained glued to our seats while the group shook with laughter as we enjoyed each other’s company. Behind Stewart and Jackson’s encouragement, our group exclaimed how great it was to be truly living in the moment! When we arrived to our night swimming spot, our group split onto two surfboards that were outfitted with powerful LED lights in the middle and handles on the periphery. Complete with snorkels and fins, we swam as two units over an even brighter display of lights that were previously situated on the ocean floor. This light show intended to attract the animals of the night that feed on krill. We swam in awe as schools of exotic fish flashed their neon decals at us while feasting just feet beneath us. At any given moment, you could find our group shaking with laughter as they managed to hold on tight enough to stay on course. Finn kept our group entertained with his ongoing conquest to swim next to these newfound species that so intrigued him. After we had our fair share of night snorkeling, our group reassembled on our familiar boat that took us back on a coastal tour of the island’s ongoing firework displays that spanned the full length of the coast. What a way to celebrate the Fourth!!!
Our second day of SCUBA began with a hearty breakfast, and the group was eager and excited to continue to learn upon what they had started the day before. The energy from our group was fantastic as we pulled up to the dive shop and began our lessons in the pool. For lunch, we enjoyed a picnic on the grass and had a great time belly laughing and appreciating one another’ company. Every single student absolutely crushed the lessons all day long and impressed not only us but the dive instructors as well. They certainly could not have been more prepared for ocean dives! As the day came to a close, a sunset shone bright and vibrantly in the distance and our group spontaneously bolted towards it. We all sat upon the lava rocks near our campsite and soaked up such an awesome moment surrounded by such amazing people. It was truly an amazing way to end our day.
The next day began with a vibrant energy as we looked forward to our first actual ocean dive. We all piled in our van which we have affectionately named “Bason” and all sang loudly the entire way to our dive site, as Maggie impressed us and kept her entertained with her song requests. After prepping all of our gear we piled into the van again and made our way down to the beach where we would begin our dive. We were briefed on all the exciting marine life we needed to look out for on our two dives that day. As everyone descended into the ocean we all watched as our group’s eyes grew wider as a whole new world came into view. Coral and fish of all shapes and sizes surrounded us on all sides and we were all smiling through our regulators as we explored everything we could. We braked halfway through our diving day for lunch where we tried out some new foods such as star fruit. After we finished up our lunch we set our for our second dive of the day. When we all finished up that dive everyone broke the surface and unanimously agreed that the “bait ball” which is a humongous school of fish was the highlight of our entire diving day. We headed back to the campsite later that afternoon and our cook crew, Elizabeth and Olivia, made our yummy dinner of quesadillas, as Fiona sang to all of us with Stewart’s guitar. Right as a front of rain began to head into our site we began Moonup, led by our fearless LODs Will and Maggie, with the pitter patter of the rain on the leaves and then quickly headed to bed early.
Today was our final day of SCUBA and it could not have been a more wonderful day. We spent the entirety of the day on a dive boat going from one dive site to another. The morning boat ride was full of excitement as we had the wind in our hair and gathered on the bow to banter about how eager we were for the day ahead. Our first dive site, called Garden Eel Cove, was one full of life and color. It is accurately named, as we noticed all the garden eels on the ocean floor. Mikey and Anne captured some incredible footage on their Go Pros that encompassed our amazing dives today. We enjoyed our lunch break on the bow of the boat together and raved debriefed about everything we had seen. Our second dive sit was titled Golden Arches because of its underwater coral and rock arches that we were able to swim through and explore. As we concluded our last day of SCUBA, we realized what an incredible job our group did during the SCUBA portion of our trip. The enthusiasm and contagious energy that they exuded for the past several days was so fun to witness as leaders. As our day came to a close, our cook crew whipped up a chicken pesto pasta feast. Our LODs for the day, Olivia and Zach, led us in an amazing Moonup that revealed just how close our group really is. These students are truly so inspirational and the way they love each other and support one another is something we continue to lookup to and appreciate.
We are all shaking our heads in disbelief that our time together is almost up. We have already had a few teary moments together thinking about how this group will have to part soon. The last few days we have together we plan to live to the fullest. This island still has so much to offer our group and we fully intend to see it all! We know there are memories we will make in these next two days that will stay with us forever and we cannot wait to experience it together!
Bon Bon, Stewart, and Natalie
July 4, 2019
Aloha friends and families from the Big Island of Hawaii!
We are checking in after a phenomenal few days here in our new home. We enjoyed the opportunity to briefly say hello to the booming city of Honolulu as we connected to our final destination in Kona. On our flights, our group stayed glued to the windows of our plane as we watched the teal blue waters rush below us. Zach kept us informed during our travel day of his extensive knowledge of aircrafts. When we finally arrived to the Big Island, our group piled in our new van as we drove up the coast line on our way to the second campsite of our trip. Along the way, we marveled at the spanning mountains that turned into lava fields which bordered the highway on our left and the beautiful shoreline that hugged our right. We passed through small towns, schools, and forested ridge lines until it came time to exit the highway for our final push to that evening’s campsite. This beautiful winding road gradually progressed to the beachfront campsite that awaited us in the end. We were overjoyed to discover that this beach was a black sand beach that is guarded by a mountain range. We set up our tents beneath palm trees and a welcoming canopy that shaded us from the sun – we had finally settled into our new home!
Our arrival left time for some beach shenanigans which our group eagerly jumped on. A local beach goer gave our entire group an impromptu Hula dance while her husband played the ukulele. Right as everyone got the dance down, a vibrant rainbow appeared in the sky, making an ideal backdrop to our new Hawaiian dance moves. After we finished up dancing, Finn, Fiona, and Elizabeth spearheaded our cook crew where they prepared a new group favorite, pulled pork sandwiches. Our team huddled around our campsite’s picnic table and devoured every last crumb and whipped our smiling faces clean. After cleaning up and adding the final touches to our campsite, we gathered on the shoreline for that night’s Moonup that included a wonderful group conversation where we connected about our progress throughout the trip so far and addressed what we still sought to achieve as a group. We have so much to look forward to!
We awoke the next morning and prepared ourselves with a hearty breakfast of pancakes and hash browns. With full bellies, we piled into the van to drive towards our day’s hike. After we enjoyed some tunes on the ride and impressive dance moves by Maggie, we arrived to the Waipio valley that overlooked a spanning valley in front of us. We unpacked our picnic items and enjoyed our lunch looking over the expansive valley that we would soon be hiking into. On the far side, we spotted numerous waterfalls that patterned the mountain ranges behind. Our fearless LODs, Anne and Jackson, led the group with energy and enthusiasm. We set out as a group with a pep in our step as we enjoyed our trip’s first hiking component. After a challenging beginning, we found ourselves in the base of a luscious valley that was shrouded in a thick canopy of Hawaiian trees. We were revitalized with a new sense of awe while we progressed towards our hike’s finale. When we finally reached the destination beach of the hike, we enjoyed making cairns with the loose rocks on the sand and did some group stretching before making the short but challenging trek back up to the van. Our time on the beach was filled with laughs and photo-ops, which Mikey willingly contributed to with her GoPro. Every single student had such an awesome attitude all day long and it was so encouraging to watch.
Our drive back to our campsite could not have been a better way to end an awesome day. On the way back, we drove directly into a full rainbow and it was such an amazing moment full of awe and appreciation for one another and the world around us. We had such a great time taking pictures and enjoying the picturesque backdrop. Stewart was especially motivating when organizing our group’s spontaneous photo shoot. After sharing yelps of excitement and endless laughter, we hopped back into the van and made our way back to camp, where Olivia and Will whipped up a feast of mac and cheese. It was an incredible way to end a day full of great surprises. Our students continue to amaze us with their amazing energy and enthusiasm throughout the trip. We have no doubt this excitement will continue into our time spent scuba diving! We can’t wait to check in in just a few days with an update on our time on the Big Island. Happy Fourth of July! We can’t wait to celebrate it here as a family!
Until then, mahalo and aloha!!!
Stewart, Bon Bon, and Natalie
I love you parents. Happy 4th of July!- Zach
Hola fam! Happy 4th! I hope rocco enjoys his first 4 of July! Love and miss y’all so much! ~ Fi
Happy 4th of July! Miss you guys, see you soon. -Jackson
Happy 4th of July, miss you guys lots, about to start scuba diving today and will be home soon -Stew
Hi Mom and Dad! Happy Fourth of July! Love you guys! – Will
Hey guys! Happy Fourth!! Love and miss you! Maggie
I hope y’all are having the best 4th ever!! Love y’all to Hawaii and back!! -Mikey
Happy 4th! Hope y’all have a great day. See you soon. -Olivia
Happy 4th! I miss and love y’all SO much! We’re on the way to start our first day of scuba training. This trip has gone by so fast! See y’all soon! ~Anne
Happy 4th! I hope PC is fun! See y’all in a few days! ~ Elizabeth
Hey parents happy Fourth! I’m beginning my dive training today!!! I am beyond stoked! Love you guys so much, miss you guys. -Finn
July 2, 2019
Aloha from Hawaii and Happy July!
Wow! What a memorable few days we have had! We are in full swing now as we finish up our fifth day and are loving every second together! We are excited to see what the rest of the trip has in store for this group, we know it can only be good things.
After our day of surfing we woke up bright and early to begin our big day of kayaking the Nā Pali coast! We filled up our water bottles, lathered ourselves in reef safe sunscreen, and started our 17 mile kayaking adventure from Hanalei to Polihale Beach. There is truly nothing more beautiful in the whole world than this special place- not a single time during the full length of our day there were we not in awe of this majestic and historical area. The rolling, green mountains are filled with so much rich Hawaiian history, and we had so much fun learning about it all. We had the opportunity to kayak in and out of caves, and a fish even jumped into Zach’s boat! Elizabeth and Olivia were our fearless LODs and did an absolutely amazing job encouraging the group during a physically strenuous feat. Their leadership skills certainly shone through and made our kayaking trip so special. Finn kept our group entertained the whole day with his singing and antics. After a truly amazing day of kayaking, our crew earned a well-deserved nights sleep and rested up for our day today.
This morning, everyone appreciated sleeping in longer than usual and enjoyed “fancy” hash browns for breakfast that Jackson used his master chef skills to make. While eating, everyone turned to Jackson, our executive chef for the morning, and exclaimed that these were quite possibly the most delicious hashbrowns anyone had ever had before. We then headed to Hanalei for a cold and refreshing shaved ice treat since it was beginning to become a hot day on the island. It was then time for everyone’s favorite part of the day by far, a beach visit!
We made it to the beach just in time for lunch and as we sat around and ate our sandwiches. As a group, we agreed that we were standing on the most beautiful beach we had ever been to. Surrounded by tall cliffs, lava rocks, and perfectly clear water, it truly was unlike anything we had ever seen before. For the entire afternoon we frolicked and splashed around the beach, having the time of our lives without a care in the world. With the world’s most beautiful background in our midst Maggie, Anne, and Fiona had an awesome photo shoot on the beach! None of us wanted to leave but we’re anticipating a delicious dinner. Stewart, Mikey, and Will cooked the group up some amazing Jambalaya. Every bowl was practically licked clean by the end of dinner because we all loved it so much! It was such a special moment getting to sit and eat together and reminisce on all the fun we had that day.
We are all so excited for our next adventure in Kona on the Big Island! Flying out tomorrow will be a new and exciting adventure for the group and we cannot wait to conquer it together. We already feel like a big family and we feel so lucky to be able to lead these amazing students.
Natalie, Bonnie, and Stewart
Hey family and friends! Mom and dad, I hope y’all are having a great time at the lake house. I’ve had the best time so far. I love Hawaii so much and it’s so pretty here. Can’t wait to fill y’all in!! Love and miss y’all!! -Anne;)
Hey guys! Hawaii is amazing, I wish you guys could see how pretty it is!! We’ve been in Kauai for the past week, and we are leaving for the main island today to scuba dive. So far we’ve surfed, kayaked, and done community service. I can’t wait to see you guys and show you all the pictures I’ve taken!! -Maggie:)
Hey mom and dad-Hawaii is amazing and so pretty. My fav thing so far is surfing, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!! I hope y’all are doing well in Atlanta and have an amazing fourth at the beach. Love y’all 🙂 -Olivia
Hey fam! Hawaii is AWESOME! I never want to leave but I miss y’all so much! Please tell James and Rocco and lady that I miss them! I hope everything is good back at home love y’all so much – Fiona
Hi mom! I hope you, Robert and Maggie are good. Hawaii is amazing! We’re leaving for the mainland to today. Everywhere we’ve been is so pretty!! We’ve seen such cool things I can’t wait to tell you all about it! See y’all soon! I love you! -Elizabeth
I’m having an extremely gnarly time! -Mikey
Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having an awesome time! Hawaii is so amazing! Can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get home! -Will
Hello mom and dad, we just finished about half of the trip and have surfed, kayaked, and did community service. I am having so much fun here with Jackson, the leaders and the group. About to head to the big island to scuba dive and I am so freaking excited. See you guys soon, love you so much!!! -stew
Hello Mom and Dad, we just finished our time on Kaua’i and are heading to the big island. So far we have done service, kayaking and surfing. Tell the bros I say hi can’t wait to see you guys soon. Love you! – Jackson
Hey Mom and Oafie love you guys so much! I’m having an amazing time my group and trip leaders are so amazing, hope you guys are enjoying your little beach cottage! We are headed to the big island today, I’m so excited!!! Pretty soon I’ll be diving!!!!! Love you, enjoy your trip! -Finn
Hi parents. I’m having lots of fun doing water stuff in Hawaii! Miss y’all. -Zach
June 30, 2019
Aloha from Kauai!
Our first few days in Hawaii so far have been incredible and we have already made some memories with one another. Although it has only been 2 days, it feels like we have known each other for weeks now! Each member of our Moondance family brings something new, and we can’t wait to make more memories together in Kauai and on the Big Island next week.
Airport day could have been a slow, lethargic one, however these awesome students made it the exact opposite. We were greeted with such energy, spunk, and enthusiasm by everyone, and it made us so excited to begin to get to know these amazing kids. Stewart and Jackson initiated a game of water bottle shuffleboard as a game to pass the time at the airport, and it kept us entertained for hours. Elizabeth suggested playing cards, which brought about lively competition as we got to know one another. As the students began to gradually trickle in, we all began to get to know each other and feel close already. We ended the night at our campsite and enjoyed some well-deserved pizza!
We jump started our day yesterday with bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches which gave everyone the energy they needed to take on the day ahead. As we headed off to our first day of community service our van ride was filled with singalongs that woke us up and got us pumped. Upon arrival, we had the opportunity to learn all about what the Waipa Foundation does for the community. We spent the morning and early afternoon clearing invasive species from their crop of Tea leaves which are one of Hawaii’s most versatile crops. Will really showed his leadership skills by buckling down and made some major headway with clearing. We worked up an appetite and after our work was done walked over to our beach lunch spot where Finn promptly ran full speed into the water exclaiming that he will “never pass up a chance to jump in the water!” After our lunch we all drove back to the campsite and all went for a swim together before sitting down for a delicious meal of burrito bowls.
This morning everyone woke up with an excitement about our upcoming day of surfing that we had been anticipating for the entire trip leading up to it. We drove to a secluded beach that included a cove that received a constant flow of waves coming from a fresh water river on one end and the Pacific Ocean on the other. After we unloaded and prepared for our day on the beach, our outstanding surf instructors gave us some top notch surfing advice. We entered the water with a newfound confidence that carried us over the incoming waves until we found the sweet spot in the water where we eagerly awaited as a group. Zach, Mikey, and Fiona kicked our group’s success off as they rode in waves all the way to the shore. When they hopped off their boards to return to our group in the water, their beaming smiles shone through the surf. This encouraged the rest of our group to carve up every wave that rolled our way.
We enjoyed a beachside picnic lunch and ventured out for an afternoon in Hanalei, a small, lively beach town. After walking around and enjoying the nice weather and a town day, we indulged in a scoop of ice cream, which of course was a crowd-pleaser. We returned to our campsite for an afternoon on the beach, as we swam, played soccer, and took beach pictures. Anne, Maggie, and Olivia whipped up some incredible spaghetti and meatballs which helped wrap up an amazing day. It’s safe to say we are not going to bed hungry! After dinner, the group spotted the pink and purple sunset spread across the sky and spontaneously jumped up and ran to get a better view. We all had the best time appreciating the beauty together, and it was truly the cherry on top to a great day.
The past few days have brought us close already and we feel as if we’ve known each other for a while now, which is such an awesome feeling. We can already tell that these students are truly special and that we are so fortunate to get to be their leaders. The next few days will be jam packed with activities, and we can’t wait to keep everyone updated!
Natalie, Bonnie, and Stewart
June 28, 2019
Hello Hawaiian Islands families!
All students have arrived safe and sound in Hawaii, and their leaders are so excited to have them. They are already back at their campsite, getting ready for the next day’s adventures!