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2-mile long lei heading to Vegas

October 12, 2017 GMT

LIHUE — After thousands of hours by hundreds of volunteers, the Lei of Aloha for Las Vegas is nearly done.

The two-mile-long, ti-leaf lei of love will soon be delivered to the people of Las Vegas after the recent tragedy which killed 59 people in the city.

The lei was woven in pieces on Kauai, Maui, Kona and Oahu, and was joined together Wednesday in Honolulu.

Volunteer Cyrila Pycha led the charge on Kauai, and will be traveling to Las Vegas with the lei along with her brother Ron Panzo and Colleen Nomura.

The Wilcox Health Rehabilitation Department played a major part in weaving part of the lei, under the guidance of maile lei master Mona Villatora.

Jeff Gourley led his community in Kona to weave lei at My Bar Kona.

Blessings began for the Lei of Aloha Tuesday night at Nalu’s South Shore Grill on Maui as Hawaiian cultural, community and faith leaders united to present the one-mile lei created on Maui.

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The second blessing was held at Daniel Inouye International Airport at the Hawaiian Airlines terminal Wednesday, where the two miles of lei were welcomed.

“Sometimes we forget that we are connected, that we always have someone to turn to when we feel alone,” said Panzo, originator of the Lei of Aloha for World Peace. “We used to always talk to our family or friends, or a trusted leader, coach, minister when we were hurt or confused, and you didn’t see these kinds of violent attacks as much. I think we need to remember to reach out to each other, whether we feel unconnected or if we see our loved ones toughing it out alone.”

Lei of Aloha started out in 2015 after terrorists bombed Paris, and a small group of people including Panzo weaved a one-mile-long lei and delivered it to Paris to lay at the explosion site.

“Tim Lara was the one who suggested ti-leaf lei, which was more traditional and Hawaiian,” Panzo said. Lara and Panzo were part of the delegation that delivered the first Lei of Aloha to Paris.

Then in June 2016, tragedy struck Orlando, Florida, when a gunman killed 49 young people at Pulse Nightclub, the largest mass killing up to that date in the country’s history. Immediately following the shooting, Panzo met with Joe Tolbe about weaving a lei for Orlando.

Hundreds of volunteers showed up, including Gov. David Ige. Tolbe and Panzo led a contingency of Hawaii Six-O, who traveled to Orlando and delivered the lei to Pulse, to the hospital where many were treated, and to the large memorial site. Met by dozens of Hawaiians who live in Florida, they delivered powerful chants of grief, sadness and love.

“I’ve been singing ‘Hawaii Aloha’ all my life, but I was never so proud as I was when we sang that song in Orlando,” said Stacey Moniz, one of the Hawaii 6-O.

The organizers of Lei of Aloha also sent lei to Washington, D.C. and to Honolulu for the return of the voyaging canoe Hokulea from her three-year worldwide voyage, Malama Honua.

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The shootings in Las Vegas were an instant call to action for the Lei of Aloha team.

“We knew immediately we needed to do a lei for Las Vegas. They’re family,” said Panzo.

Hawaiian Airlines is donating airfare for four from Honolulu to Las Vegas, and the California Hotel and Casino will be housing the volunteers delivering lei to sites throughout Las Vegas, including the scene of the shooting.