Alex Chiarella to donate $50 per birdie to Maui wildfire relief efforts
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The Korn Ferry Tour pro will make donations throughout the four-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals
Written by Adam Stanley @Adam_Stanley
Maui’s iconic 150-year-old banyan tree, a centerpiece of downtown Lahaina, was charred in the recent wildfire blaze. The Pioneer Inn – the oldest-running hotel in Hawaii after going into operation in 1901 – burned to the ground. Upwards of 2,200 structures – including the public library, churches, restaurants and other gathering places – were damaged or destroyed in the August fires.s
Those are just things. People, numbering in the hundreds, died.
Fourth-year Korn Ferry Tour pro Alex Chiarella is doing something to help. Rising and rebuilding.
During the four-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Chiarella will donate $50 per birdie to Maui wildfire relief efforts (he made 22 birdies at the Finals-opening Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron). The donations will benefit the Calvary Chapel and the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund.
Chiarella has sponsors on board who are matching his donations, and he’s recruiting other players into the initiative as well.
Maui has been his lifelong home, and while his family is thankfully safe, plenty of others weren’t so lucky. The 29-year-old Chiarella was instinctively compelled to help however he can.
“It's been really tough on me … and truthfully I’ve felt really helpless being over here on the mainland and not being able to help,” Chiarella said. “This is my way to help as best I can. It is somber on Maui. Thousands of homes destroyed – buildings, restaurants that have been there forever. Entire towns. Just to see over 100 peoples’ lives lost now, it’s tough.
“Maui … if you’ve ever visited, you know how tight-knit the community is, and we’re kind of one big family. To see something like this happen, it affects me. It affects everybody involved.”
The wildfires began in early August with an emergency declaration signed on Aug. 8. The damage from the fires has been pegged at nearly $6 billion. At the time of the fires, 16% of the county of Maui was under severe drought conditions, according to The New York Times. The most significant of the fires occurred near Lahaina, with peak wind gusts of 80 mph blowing the flames through neighborhoods and key tourist areas. Hawaii Governor Josh Green stated the fire temperature reached 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and he called it “the worst natural disaster” in the history of the state.
Chiarella said initially when the news broke, he was shocked. He got a ton of calls from his friends, and his parents called him immediately to say they were OK. His extended family, too – their house in Lahaina survived. The days and weeks following the initial sweeping burn were hard, he said.
“The aftermath of that was unbelievable,” Chiarella said. “(My extended family) were pretty much trapped on West Maui for a period of time with no cell service, no water, no food, no Wi-Fi. And still to this day there are thousands of people missing. That’s just heartbreaking.”
Chiarella was born in Oahu, but his family moved to Maui after just a few months – “Maui is all I know,” he said. He lived there all the way through high school before heading to the mainland United States to attend the University of San Diego.
Alex Chiarella after his win at the 2018 Maui Open. (Courtesy Alex Chiarella)
“Eighteen years at home in Maui … and I wouldn’t change that for the world,” Chiarella said.
The Maui Strong Fund will provide financial resources to “support the immediate and long-term recovery needs for the people and places” affected by the wildfires by working with state and country leaders, non-profit organizations and community members. The Calvary Chapel, meanwhile, has long had a food pantry available to those who are food insecure or unsheltered. It has pivoted to become a “full-fledged distribution center” to help those who have been displaced by the wildfires.
The PGA TOUR, meanwhile, plans to play The Sentry at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in January as currently scheduled. TOUR winners Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele made donations after the FedExCup Playoffs, while Sentry made a $250,000 donation for immediate support efforts – matched by the TOUR.
Collin Morikawa donates to wildfire relief efforts in Maui
“We're committed … if we're allowed to, if we're invited, if we're embraced, given all that needs to be accomplished, we will be there, 100 percent,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan said during his annual State of the PGA TOUR press conference at the TOUR Championship. “But I think at this point right now, that's outside of our hands. Our focus is on what we can do (to help).”
For those who would like to support Maui’s long-term viability, Chiarella encouraged visiting. The economy will suffer, he admitted, unless tourism keeps coming in. While he urged people to avoid West Maui for now, there are plenty of great places near South Maui ready to welcome tourists.
“People really need money to survive,” he said.
While Chiarella’s focus over the next few weeks will be on golf, the better he plays, the more money will be raised for his home. A devastating time for those on Maui, but an opportunity to do something good.
“I think it can make a huge difference to Maui. They need us more than ever,” Chiarella said. “When the news covers disasters like this, they usually only cover it for a week or two when it’s relevant, but something like this is going to affect Maui for years. Homes lost. Lives lost. And trying to rebuild a historical town and many towns on Maui that have been around forever.
“We just need everyone’s support, and I want to thank everybody for being involved in this.”