Billionaire fulfills wishes for dozens of Hawaii schools

Billionaire fulfills wishes for dozens of Hawaii schools
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A San Francisco software developer with a big heart and fat wallet has fulfilled dozens of Hawaii teachers' requests for classroom funds on a popular crowdfunding site.

Billionaire Marc Benioff, who happens to have a Big Island home, fulfilled requests for everything from art supplies to school excursions on

In all, he funded 183 projects -- like the request for fifth-grader Julene Villar's classroom.

"We were asking for money to buy more fans because it was getting real hot in our classroom," the 10-year-old said.

Wish granted.

The big donation was part of a coordinated effort by dozens of philanthropists to "flash fund" school projects across the country. Benioff pledged to cover every single teacher request in the state of Hawaii that was posted on a website soliciting donations for classroom projects.

August Ahrens Elementary in Waipahu was one of 87 campuses funded statewide.

Teacher Marissa Noury said in her four years at the school, she's learned how to be resourceful -- and how to ask for help.

She turned to for assistance with purchasing fans the school couldn't squeeze into its budget. is dedicated to raising money for schools across the country by seeking donations for specific projects.

After learning about the donation for fans Friday, Noury's students were ecstatic.

"I felt excited because we won't have to feel this heat anymore," said 10-year-old Justin Purdy.

In funding the Hawaii classroom request, Benioff said that the students of Hawaii "deserve the very best education."

"Education is critical to making the world a better place and training the workforce of tomorrow," he said.

And that starts with the littlest learners, like Betty Ikeler's kindergardeners at Waikiki Elementary. Benioff's donation will buy tools to help Ikeler's students enhance their fine motor skills.

"We're tying in our writing, our reading, our science, our sustainability by using the technology with the iPads that were funded," Ikeler said.

Katie Bisbee, chief marketing officer at, called Benioff's donation "special."

"My hope is he's passing the baton to citizens across Hawaii and across the country to keep supporting these teachers going forward," she said.

Benioff's big gift was part of a national push to fund public school classrooms. The idea was inspired by CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert under the hashtag #BestSchoolDay.

And it garnered support from a long list of celebrities, from actress Anna Kendrick to the founders of Twitter and pro-athletes.

Nationally, donors pledged more than $14.2 million to fund nearly 12,000 projects.

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