WAIPAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii families are opening their hearts and wallets to help victims of deadly floods in the Philippines. Authorities said it will take months to start rebuilding, but Monday's fundraiser in Waipahu will help the hardest-hit cities.
Organizers hoped to raise $25,000. With all the money and pledges collected during the seven hour fundraiser, they believe they've exceeded that goal.
Dedicated volunteers worked the phones at that the Filipino Community Center. For Leah Boling, this was a personal plea, after a close call involving her parents.
"Despite everything, none of my relatives died, so that's one blessing. That, I always tell them, to just be grateful because material things we can buy them," said Boling.
The death toll has now climbed to nearly 1,500. Entire villages were swept away by flash floods on December 16. The storm unleashed more than a month's worth of rainfall in just 12 hours, pushing walls of water into homes.
That's what happened to Boling's parents in Cagayan de Oro. Luckily, their boarders pounded on their door, and the noise guided the elderly couple to the exit in the darkness.
"My mom woke up, the water was already about four feet inside their house and if not for them, they would have died. The boarders said about 5 to 10 more minutes, and they would have drowned," said Boling.
American Idol finalist Camile Velasco performed at the fundraiser. She was born in the Philippines and still has relatives there.
"My mother, she's from Cagayan de Oro and my nana is from there as well, and my uncle actually lost his house," said Velasco.
State representatives Tom Brower and John Mizuno are in the southern Philippines for a previously scheduled trip. Brower got a firsthand look at some of the damage.
"It was really sad because we could probably have helped to prevent a lot of this. It's just that there isn't the awareness that the west has in natural disasters," said Brower during a telephone interview.
All the money collected will be sent to the archbishops of the two hardest hit cities.
"The community has always responded, and not only that, it's not just the Filipino community that responds, I think the entire community does," said Toy Arre, president of the Filipino Community Center.
Donations can be made at any First Hawaiian Bank branch starting on Tuesday. The money will go to the Philippine Red Cross.