July 25, 2019
Aloha friends and families!
We are writing this final trip update with heavy hearts and bittersweet tears in our eyes. What a tough goodbye to give to our students. We already miss everyone and have spent our time at the airport giving big bear hugs and swapping favorite stories from our time together on this island. It is so hard to conceptualize the difficulty of saying goodbye in a context like this when we’ve only known this new family for fourteen days at this point, yet we feel like we’ve had a bond for a lifetime!
Prior to our tearful goodbyes, we had an amazing last few days here on the Garden Island of Kaua’i. Our service ended with a wonderful sense of awe and accomplishment. We finished our time on the Waipa service reserve clearing a forest to help maintain the local forests that helped maintain a sustainable environment for the local fauna. During our time spent clearing the forest, Ava and Taylor showed the initiative in rallying our group while swapping stories and riddles to keep the rest of the group involved and entertained. When we finished clearing trees and weeding invasive species, our group convened for lunch until we mustered up the energy for a second hike to a local swimming hole! Upon arrival, Aaron kicked things off with a dip in the mountain spring while he was clad in his newly purchased manta ray leggings. The rest of the group followed shortly after with shrieks of enjoyment. We found ourselves living in the moment with a joyous sense of accomplishment!!!
During our final hike out of the Waipa forest, Christopher led our squad in group songs as we bounded down the mountainside to find what next adventure lay ahead of us. When we arrived to our van, we headed towards a local thrift shop to gear up for our final banquet night together! At the thrift store, our group spent our time howling with laughter and excitement as we amped up for a funky night together as we focused solely on our upcoming group dinner together! During our local banquet, Jack tucked his napkin into his collar and dug in like a pro, which left the rest of our table in tears with laughter as we enjoyed our final night together. On the ride home, Isabel and Kennedy led the group in a few sing alongs while dancing the night away. It was a sight to see as we made our way up the coast to enjoy our last evening together!
At our campsite, William and Lizzie led us through our final moonup that encapsulated the nostalgia of the evening. We debriefed our entire trip while sharing words of affirmation. Our crew had become one big, loving family, and it showed during our last moonup conversation together. With teary eyes and full hearts, we concluded this group conversation with a lasting bear hug as we exclaimed how tough it was to be spending our last evening together!
We slept in on our last morning and rose with a beautiful day that lay waiting for us. David kicked off the morning with a surfboard in his hand as he hit the waves with a contagious determination. Aubrey and Layne made sure the group grabbed some last minute pictures as we commemorated our memorable time together on such an amazing beachfront with the rolling waves in the background. We swapped favorite stories while playing songs on the guitar as time seemed to melt away against our will. Our last meal consisted of a pasta soufflé prepared by our loving group members in an iron chief competition that came down to the wire! We admired our team’s camaraderie that shone through in our final hours together. Everyone made sure to make the most of the dwindling time we had left together as we put the final touches on the summer experience of a lifetime.
In our van ride to the airport, we played our trip’s favorite tunes and no voice avoided a raspy finale of Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band that concluded our time spent in Big Bertha. At the airport, we struggled to accept the impending goodbyes as we approached the security line with looming flights back home. Our team ended our two weeks with smiles on our faces and revitalized spirits. We had done it. Our summer was complete with the best possible trip to Hawaii that blew our minds!
As leaders, we cannot thank the parents of this group enough. You have provided these students with the trip of a lifetime and it has been our distinct privilege to be a part of their memorable growth and adventures. We love this family of amazing people and are so appreciative for our time together. We are excited to keep in touch with everyone and hope that you are able to conceptualize the depth of what we have gone through as a group! Over the course of thirteen days, we grew closer than we deemed possible and experienced so much together while accomplishing the goals that we set out for ourselves.
It is with tears in our eyes that we say mahalo and aloha one final time to everyone involved with this trip. Keep living your best lives and we will cross paths sometime very soon!
Stewart, Natalie, and Bonnie
July 23, 2019
Aloha friends and family,
It has been a wonderful and fun-filled few days in Kauai and it is quickly feeling more and more like home. Our Moondance family continues to get closer, and we can’t believe we are coming close to the end of our time in Hawaii. Our time in Kauai has been filled with many large strides for the individuals and as a group as well. These amazing students impress us day after day, and although its bittersweet, we are so pumped to spend our last few days together!
Our first full day in Kauai began with a hearty oatmeal breakfast and prepared for our morning of surfing in Hanalei Bay. Eager to see what all the day held in store, we filled up our van and set out for the waves! After learning the basics of standing up on a surfboard, we were launched into the water, and practically everyone got up on the first try! Every single person was cheering each other on while surfing the waves, and it was such an energetic atmosphere to be a part of. Aubrey and David impressed us with their tandem surfing skills all morning long. Taylor was especially great at surfing and caught every wave possible, and Kennedy was everyone’s cheerleader! It was such a great morning and we left with such excitement and satisfaction of quickly catching onto something new and exciting. That afternoon, we enjoyed ice cream in Hanalei and then got to wander around the charming, local Hawaiian town. Layne was a ball of energy as she got the group excited about exploring the new town. After fun-filled afternoon, we headed back to camp and had a delicious dinner of barbecue chicken quesadillas in order to fuel up for our day of kayaking the Na Pali Coast!
Yesterday, we woke up early and set out for our unforgettable adventure. Spirits and expectations were high as we made our way around the island of Kauai. After learning the basics of kayaking and the history and cultural significance of the Na Pali Coast, we boarded our boats and set off for the full 17 miles. It is an understatement to say that every single moment during the day had the most magnificent view in the world. This particular coast is one very sacred to Hawaiians and is packed with history which made every stopping point very interesting. William made sure to remind everyone to reapply sunscreen all day, which was very helpful! We also paddled into several caves that had us all in awe. One particular cave was an open ceiling cave with a rock in the middle which everyone jumped off of! It was a great moment for our group in the middle of a long day of paddling. We passed by the spots where Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed which everyone obviously enjoyed. As LODs, Isabel and Jack kept the whole group energetic and encouraged. By the end of our full 17 miles, we celebrated by swimming on the beach where we finished, which was such a rewarding and energizing feeling. It was such an amazing accomplishment to complete such a physically challenging task, and our group did it with such grace and ease! We finished our day with a well-deserved Mac n Cheese feast and quickly went to sleep.
After a much-needed long nights rest, we woke up excited and refreshed to start our service portion of the trip! Enjoying the cool breeze coming off the water, we all scarfed down a yummy breakfast of cinnamon rolls before loading into the van and heading to the Waipa foundation. Once arriving, we met with some of the staff there who briefed us on Waipa’s purpose and what exactly our role would be to help them better the community. We then set off on a short hike through their beautiful property that lead us to a river that was being choked by invasive species. The main invasive species we were clearing, Hau is known for growing 10 feet per year and thus blocking rivers and cutting off water sources to organisms that need to be hydrated. Our goal for the day was to use our numbers to clear as much Hau from a river front as possible. We all got to work and in no time we had a pile three feet high of Hau limbs and a clear river front. Lizzie wowed the entire group with her neat stacking skills while Aaron and Christopher kept group moral high by leading everyone in song. By the end of our time clearing the Hau we were smiling and sweaty. The hike back down was filled with happy conversation about all the fun we’d just had and hope to do something similar the next day.
After we finished up service we ate a fabulous lunch with Waipa’s beautiful mountain range as a backdrop before heading out for a surprise excursion to a beach near our campsite. We spent the rest of the day riding the waves and exploring the surrounding rock faces. By the time we left the beach we felt salty and exhausted in the best way possible. After returning back to our campsite we cooked up breakfast for dinner and munched on yummy eggs and sausage. Soon after we began eating, Ava pointed out an amazing sunset that was unfolding in the distance so we grabbed all our plates and ran out onto the beach where we reveled in the glorious Hawaii sunset surrounded by our newest buddies. We can’t wait for our final day of service tomorrow, yet we know it will be a very hard goodbye as we wrap up our time together. We are so honored to be leaders to such an incredible group of students, and we will miss them so dearly. We are each having a hard time believing that tomorrow is our last full day together but because of this we are all each determined to make each moment count.
Natalie, Bonnie, and Stewart
July 20, 2019
Aloha from our new home in Kaua’i,
We are so happy to report that our new home on the Garden Island has been so welcoming and beautiful so far! We loved our time on the Big Island and grew so much through our time there which made our goodbye bittersweet, but we have so much to look forward to as a group and you can feel the energy!
Before taking off on our flight to Kaua’i, our group spent our last full day on the Big Island hiking down to an even more beautiful valley than before if you can believe it! We started our hike with a scenic outlook where we got some great group shots before we dropped down into a densely forested path that weaved down the mountainside. Every ten minutes or so, we came across a new vantage point that gave us a great spot for watching the waves come in off the coast. Behind the leadership of Kennedy and William, we crushed the challenging hike and reached a beautiful cove at the bottom that welcomed our group with open arms. Here, Aubrey and Taylor led our group in some picturesque gymnastics on the sand with the sound of the ocean behind us. Nearby, Christopher and Aaron put together a rock skipping competition on the freshwater river that connected from the nearby mountaintops to the ocean. Further on, Layne found a small rope swing that gave a beautiful view of the nearby forest that bordered the beach, the Poll Valley.
After spending some quality time exploring this amazing beach, we ventured back up the mountain together and returned for a hearty meal of jambalaya before we got an early sleep in preparation for our airport day. When the time came to say goodbye to our home for the past seven days, our group rallied and watched the Big Island of Hawaii fade into the teal waters behind us as we turned our attention towards our awaiting adventures that lay waiting for us in Kaua’i. Our airport day went so smoothly thanks to our amazing group who was so helpful and upbeat the entire day. Upon arrival, we piled in our new van and cranked some beachy tunes! Ava contributed some great song requests during our drive. The drive over to our campsite was full of awestruck stares as everyone reveled in the beauty that is the Garden Island of Kaua’i. We can all agree we have never been in a place like this before. Once we settled into our new campsite and set up our tents, David and Isabel prepared an amazing birthday dinner for Jack! After finishing up dinner, everyone came together to sing Jack “Happy Birthday” loudly as we continued the celebration with cupcakes and conversation. We are so thankful to have his birthday as a part of our experience in Hawaii! Our fearless LODs, Taylor and Lizzie, led us in an amazing Moonup to wrap up our travel day and got us excited and eager to begin our new adventure.
As we head to sleep tonight we can’t think to be anything but excited for adventures we will soon embark on with Kaua’i as our new scenery. This island has so much to offer and we are ready to soak it all in. We will start off all the adventures on a high note by partaking in a morning surfing lesson.
Stew, Bonnie, and Natalie
July 18, 2019
Shoutouts from our Hawaii group!
William: dear family, I’m having a great time in hawaii. My group is super nice and my leaders are amazing. I’m having a great time and am really excited to see y’all. Take care of my four-legged brothers! Love y’all so much, William.
Jack: sup fam, I’m havin fun times in Hawaii. Have fun in Italy:)
Ava: hi mom and dad! I’m having a great time in Hawaii! I love and miss y’all and hope your having fun on your trip! Love, your favorite daughter (p.s. please have satco waiting for me at home, I’ve never wanted it so bad in my life)
Lizzie: hi family. I miss y’all and the dog and Lydia. See u soon. Xoxo
Taylor: hi family I’m having lots of fun and I miss y’all! Also hi friends !!! I don’t remember anymore but I can’t wait to see you. Love the best Taylor
David: Hey y’all. I am having the time of my life over here. Adele, you’d love these counselors, I have the same silly laughs with them that I do with you. Mom and dad. Words don’t say how thankful I am that you sent me here. Love you all
Christopher: Hello everyone. I’m currently in a u-haul van on the way to a hike. The weather has been very nice and warm too. Scuba diving was really cool also. I’ll see y’all later later
Isabel- Hey mom and dad I am having so much fun!! I know y’all would love it here, especially mom. Hope Mac is surviving being the only child. Scuba diving was the coolest thing ever and I know y’all would have loved it as much as I did. Love and miss y’all can’t wait to talk about all the people I’ve met and things I’ve done!!
Layne: hey! I’ve been having so much fun and I’ve made some great friends. I think my favorite part so far was seeing the Manta rays at night. It is so gorgeous here and the activities have been super cool. Mom & Dad I hope y’all have had fun following bands and I’m sure Anna is loving the house to herself. Love and Miss y’all tons. Say hey to Georgie for me. Love ya, -baby Layne
Aubrey- hey mom and dad! I am having so much fun and have made some great friends. Scuba diving was so much fun and I wish I would have listened to y’all and got certified earlier. Dad would have loved scuba diving here and meeting my instructor who was just as crazy about it as he is. Caro, if you see this I miss you and tell everyone else hey and I miss them too! I love and miss y’all:))
Kennedy- hey mom, dad, and beebo I’m having the most fun here with the best people! It’s been so fun snorkeling with Manta rays and scuba diving. I’m certified!! I can’t wait to see y’all and tell you all about the trip. Miss you guys! I love y’all
Aaron- Hope you are all well! I have enjoyed spending time and bonding with all of my new friends. I now need to go to South Carolina for the BBQ and my new friend. I am looking forward to seeing you guys soon.
July 18, 2019
Aloha Friends and Families!
What a few days we have had! SCUBA and snorkeling and mantas oh my! Our little family has grown so much closer over these last few days as we tackled the task of becoming SCUBA certified together. The first day of SCUBA we all awoke excited and ready for the day that awaited us. We all piled into our van which the group has affectionally named “Big Bertha” and made our way to our dive shop where we had our first full day in the pool. After learning skills such as equipment set up, mask clearing, and underwater breathing we all left the pool feeling accomplished and ready to take on our next three days of SCUBA. That night William and Jack whipped us up an amazing feast of spaghetti and meatballs, complete with an animated presentation, which we all quickly slurped down as we watched the Hawaiian sunset fade over our campsite. To this point, Aaron has served as our group’s culinary consultant and has lent his self to every cook crew as a helping hand.
Our second day of SCUBA was as exciting as the first. After one day breathing underwater, our group was eager and ready to hop right back into it and begin lessons once more. We packed up the van with sunscreen, snacks, and swimsuits and hit the road! Taylor and Kennedy have constantly kept everyone in our group entertained with their song requests and back seat dance moves. There’s never a dull moment! We spent most of the day in the pool learning lessons and practicing our new skills with our amazing diving instructors. We had a fun-filled lunch break listening to music while sitting in the nearby park and discussing how the day was going. Every single group member did absolutely amazing and crushed the skills we learned, and we had no doubt they were perfectly prepared for ocean diving! That night, we got delicious local tacos before heading out for our manta ray snorkel. As we boarded the boat for our evening excursion, everyone buzzed with excitement of what was to come! Our adventure certainly lived up to the hype- we saw several massive manta rays that fed right beneath us and playfully flipped near our boards. During the snorkel, we held onto surfboards with large lights attached to the bottoms in order to attract plankton. Manta rays feed on plankton, and they quickly flocked to our location ready to feast right in front of our eyes. Everyone roared with amazement at what was occurring so close to us. Layne kept exclaiming that it was truly the coolest thing she had ever seen in her life while trying not to laugh too hard through her snorkel. There is truly nothing in the world like this experience, and everyone left the boat in awe of what we had witnessed as a group. When we headed back to camp, our group debriefed on the amazing, fun-filled day we had, and followed with a well-deserved night’s sleep. The activities we’ve been able to be a part of have brought our group much closer together and getting to watch them bond while experiencing such incredible things together is so encouraging. We are so lucky to be able to lead such an awesome group of kids!
The next morning began with a hearty breakfast as we bantered about the day ahead, beginning our first ocean dive. We loaded up Big Bertha and hit the road off to our diving shop. Our third day consisted of two shore dives, meaning the divers walk from a beach into the water for a dive. It was such an incredible experience for everyone getting to finally enter the ocean and be able to breathe underwater. There is no feeling in the world quite like it! Everyone did such a great job and kept such high energy. Lizzie was pleasantly surprised at how much she really liked diving and took it on herself to get everyone excited for more. Our first shore dive was a perfect introduction to ocean diving, and everyone caught on very quickly. We all had the opportunity to see lots of lush coral and colorful fish. After getting the hang of it, our afternoon dive went swimmingly (pun intended) well. We continued to see lots of aquatic life and had fun swimming around together. Every group member really does thrive underwater! We were so impressed with the progress they made and what they will continue to accomplish. Our night couldn’t have ended more perfectly with a burger feast. Energy was very high as our group was so eager and excited to board the boat tomorrow for the next day’s diving.
Today had our most exciting SCUBA day yet, boat day! We woke up early, met our SCUBA crew to board one of the boats and get to diving! After enjoying a scenic 30 minute ride out to our first dive site, we hopped into the ocean and finished our surface skills before diving into the depths of the ocean to explore the new underwater world. We dove in small groups to maintain our flexibility and safety, so we all became closer as individuals while diving the depths together. Early on, Aubrey pointed out the biggest sea turtle this group had ever seen that was feasting on coral deep on the ocean floor. On top of our new turtle friend, we saw all sorts of exotic marine life, spanning from octopi to parrot fish with everything in between. Our eyes remained widened as we took it all in. What a unique experience! Everyone brought their own unique approach to diving which made this portion of our trip so memorable and exciting. We are so sad to have departed from some of the world’s best SCUBA instructors!
After debriefing our dives, we returned to our campsite and enjoyed a beautiful sunset complete with a rainbow in the background! Christopher challenged our group to a beach race and showed us his wheels as he crossed the finish line in first every time. Following this, he put together a group game of soccer that we enjoyed until we ran out of daylight. Throughout our beach time, Ava and Isabel have coordinated different photo shoots that have helped us appreciate the magnificent beauty that surrounds us. They always keep us excited and spontaneous! During our time spent on our beachfront campsite, David has put our group’s guitar to use as he leads us in group songs. What a way to end a day!
Tune back in for more later on!
-Stew, Bonnie, and Natalie
July 14, 2019
Aloha from the Big Island!
We’ve all finally arrived and the anticipation of the start of something new and amazing has been such a thrill. Kona is quickly beginning to feel like home and everyone is settling in so well after airport day. We’ve already made some fun memories together and although our group has only been here for a little over a day, it feels like we have known each other for weeks! Every single student has brought an amazing energy and unique personality to the group, and we’re looking forward to the many adventures and memories that our trip holds for the next two weeks!
Over the course of our first official day together, our group slowly trickled into the Kona airport and our excitement grew with the arrival of each student. Our first two arrivals, Taylor and David, helped set the tone for our group as they welcomed each new member of our Moondance family with a happy smile and a hug. After an airport day full of excitement and meeting new friends, we headed over to our beachside campsite. We were greeted by a hearty pizza feast by the beach where we got to know each other. We already feel like a close family, and our first meal was a fun, special one. To end our long travel day, we had our first Moonup and continued to get to know more about each other and what we are each looking forward to for the next few weeks. It certainly set an energetic, enthusiastic tone for the group as we head into our first few days!
It was such an amazing feeling waking up to the sound of rolling waves and a picturesque beach. We began our first full day by sleeping in and enjoying a hearty, well-deserved breakfast of bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches that Ava, Lizzie, and Aaron cooked up for us. After breakfast, we set off north for our day at the Waipa Valley for a hike. Waipa Valley is known for its luscious foliage and beautiful rocky shores. We sauntered down our hike to the beach front where we relaxed as a group and marveled at the beautiful Hawaiian coast. Christopher and Layne spearheaded the group’s Carins contest, which everyone promptly took part in. After constructing our decorative rock structures and spending some time getting to know each other a little more, we decided to head back up the mountain. Jack and William set the pace for the group while keeping us on track on the way back up as Isabel kept up the group’s moral with encouragement and constant jokes. Our beautiful drive back to our campsite took us on a coastal tour of the Big Island that weaved through spanning mountains and lava fields. Aubrey and Kennedy kept the group’s excitement sky high throughout our journey. They helped create a playlist for our group and kept us engaged when singing along with every song that came on. We ended our day today with a dinner of burrito bowls that fueled everyone back up after a long day. Our feast along with our second Moonup was the perfect ending to an amazing day, and we can’t wait for another one!
We are going to sleep tonight giddy as we look forward to beginning our scuba portion of the trip tomorrow! We have no doubt that each and every student will absolutely thrive and become naturals underwater. As we spend our next few days in Kona, we can’t wait to create new memories together and continue to become close. Although we have not been here for too long, we can already tell this is an extraordinary group of kids, and we couldn’t be more excited to spend the next two weeks with them!
Natalie, Bonnie. And Stewart
July 13, 2019
Hello Hawaiian Islands families!
All students have made their way to Hawaii, and are ready to begin their big adventures. We can’t wait to hear about their SCUBA and their time on the Big Island!