WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kokua For Japan -- a television, radio and Internet fundraising event for the victims of last month's earthquake and tsunami -- pulled in $1.6 million in donations as of 5:30 PM Sunday.
Before the star-studded benefit concert got underway, Kokua For Japan had already raised an estimated $640,000.
A sell-out crowd of 2,000 blanketed the Great Lawn at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, excited to be part of the internationally-broadcast event. Helen Kalahiki of Kahaluu just knew she had to be at the benefit concert, after hearing about it from a friend.
"I'm a rabid Willie Nelson fan, so she immediately called me up and that was it," she said. "Plus, it's for a really good cause."
After a half-hour delay due to technical difficulties, the Brothers Cazimero took the stage and got the place rocking. Other performers included Na Leo, Amy Hanaialii, Henry Kapono with Mick Fleetwood and Michael McDonald, and Jack Johnson.
"It's amazing how everybody just came together," Kapono said. "It's all about aloha. All I had to do was ask and people just said okay, we'll be there."
...be there to help Japan recover from last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami. Kokua For Japan was aired live on radio stations in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo, so residents there would know they were not alone in their time of need.
Live coverage on Hawaii News Now and the Internet triggered a flood of calls to the phone bank from people around the world wanting to contribute to the relief efforts.
"It feels good to be a part of this," Shawn Ching, Hawaii News Now anchor, said. "I mean, it's a tremendous effort by all the people involved. I think anything that anyone can do to help out is greatly appreciated."
Hilton employees cooked up a feast, which also brought in money via scrip sales. Other volunteers walked through the audience collecting donations in fish nets.
All proceeds will go to the American Red Cross.
"The American Red Cross is part of an international movement that supports other nations when they need help like this," Coralie Matayoshi, American Red Cross Hawaii chapter, said. "So far, we've pledged $60 million to the Japanese Red Cross to help with food and shelter and even longer-term efforts."
Country legend Willie Nelson, who has performed in Japan many times, arrived for his set. He was out on tour when he saw the heart-breaking images of the disaster.
"Naturally I felt the way everyone did," Nelson said. "It's a horrible situation and we gotta try to help if we can."