Hilo entertainers are pitching in to help students after the theft of travel funds from Waiakea Intermediate School's Ukulele Band. Several musicians performed at a fundraiser on Tuesday night at Coqui's Hideaway.
Earlier this month, authorities charged the vice president of the band's booster club, JoAnn Maldonado, for allegedly stealing at least $10,000. Investigators said the 42-year-old staged a burglary at her home and lied to police about the break-in to cover up the theft.
"I was angry and sad because I thought of her as an auntie," said 7th grader Serena Camarillo, a member of the band.
Band director George Camarillo Jr. said that after reviewing the bank statements, he discovered that the group was missing $27,000. The money was supposed to be used for travel expenses for 22 students who are scheduled to perform during a trip to Oahu in June.
"Feelings of betrayal, disappointment, anger, sometimes hopelessness, helplessness," he said.
Camarillo said the booster club has made security changes to prevent thefts in the future. Community members are now making donations to help cover the costs of the upcoming trip.
"I felt really moved to do something because those kids are our future and they didn't deserve to have that done to them because this is like their reward at the end of the year, and that program is a really iconic program around here in Hilo," said Ryan Sabate, a member of the Average Joes band that performed at the fundraiser.
The ukulele club usually performs in the Merrie Monarch parade, but this year the students marched and handed out fundraising fliers instead.
A GoFundMe campaign has already collected more than $9,500.
"It's really nice that people are trying to help out and hopefully, we have enough money so we can take the trip," Camarillo said.
Maldonado is charged with theft and false reporting to law enforcement authorities. She is on supervised release and is due back in court on May 3.
To donate to the Waiakea Intermediate School Ukulele Band Booster Club, click here.