In Uvalde, a town with ‘so many broken hearts,’ Maui group offers a mile-long lei and a lot of love

“This should never be happening, especially to our keiki."
Published: Jun. 4, 2022 at 2:50 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 4, 2022 at 10:40 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

UVALDE, TEXAS (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii volunteers delivered a mile-long lei to the Uvalde community on Saturday morning, hoping the gesture helps the community heal in some small way.

In the heart of Uvalde’s Town Square, the memorial to the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting continues to grow. Every single day flowers are added, more candles are lit, and stories about the 19 children and two teachers who died are told. It’s here where the volunteers offered their “lei of aloha.”

On Saturday, the volunteers were physically tired after taking their lei from Maui to Uvalde.


But they were also emotionally exhausted. They’ve now been to about a half-dozen mass shooting sites.

Every one is hard. Uvalde, though, was the toughest so far.

“This should never be happening, especially to our keiki,” said Lei of Aloha founder Ron Panzo. He added delivering the lei “just felt like the right thing to do.”

In a presentation ceremony Saturday, the group sought to offer comfort to mourning family members — with mele, lei and hugs.

Cindy Castillo lost her granddaughter, Lexi Rubio, in the shooting. She said the ceremony was beautiful and thanked the Maui group for traveling so far.

“It created a sense of calmness,” added Castillo, of the ceremony.

Among the loved ones grasping ti leaf woven into one long lei was Rolando Arizmendi — uncle of Ellie Garcia. Saturday would have been her 10th birthday.

“People from Hawaii, giving their blessings and all the love that they’re showing, it’s an honor to me,” said Arizmendi. His own daughter was pulled out of class the day of the shooting because she won an award.

He said his heart is heavy for not doing the same for his niece.

The community’s pain will never go away, but mourners said the warm gesture offered comfort.

“I’m so grateful that you all have paid your way from Hawaii to our little town,” said community member Yvonne Hernandez. “There are so many broken hearts, and we need to come together.”

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.