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Edison High Assistant Football Coach Leads Maui Relief Effort

Edison High Assistant Football Coach Leads Maui Relief Effort

Kody Afusia (C) and others participate in relief efforts to aid victims of the Maui fires at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of Kody Afusia)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

8/17/2023

Updated: 8/18/2023

Kody Afusia is not likely to forget what he called “a super-fun” 31st birthday.
It was Aug. 11, three days after raging wildfires had devastated the Hawaiian island of Maui. Mr. Afusia was outside Edison High School in Huntington Beach, where he works as a special-education teacher and assistant football coach, spearheading a relief effort to aid victims who had survived the tragedy.
“My first reaction was how can I get to Maui and help?” Mr. Afusia told The Epoch Times. “I was looking at flights. I came across something that they were flying in volunteers. I would be there in a heartbeat, but at the same time, I understand that resources are limited. So, I was like, ‘What’s the next thing I could do?’ There had to be something else. This was it.”
Ironically, had it not been for the fires, Mr. Afusia and the Edison varsity football team would have gone to Maui the day before. The Chargers had been scheduled to play their first two games on the island, part of a season-opening, nine-day trip that quickly fell by the wayside.
“This is so much bigger than football,” Mr. Afusia said. “It’s human life, humans taking care of humans. I couldn’t even imagine what people there are feeling, what they went through, and they’re still grieving, obviously. We’re just trying to do what we can.”
Mr. Afusia has multiple personal connections to Hawaii. After growing up in nearby Midway City and starring at Ocean View High in Huntington Beach, he played on the offensive line at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, graduating in 2014. He also has multiple cousins living on the islands, split about evenly between Maui and Oahu.
Fortunately, Mr. Afusia’s family members on Maui, who live on what he called “the rim” of Lahaina, all survived. Their home was one of the few in the hardest-hit area that did not burn.
Able to text with his cousins, Mr. Afusia set about figuring out how he could help the situation. He came across several organizations on Instagram, finally settling on one called Community Relief Maui.
“I just saw that they were providing supply hubs, where people could drop off supplies that were needed,” Mr. Afusia said.
Kody Afusia (C) leads efforts to aid victims of the Maui fires, in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of Kody Afusia)

Kody Afusia (C) leads efforts to aid victims of the Maui fires, in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of Kody Afusia)

His immediate thought was to hit a big-box store and get “anything I can grab and take to the supply hubs. Beyond that, I was like, ‘What about the people that can’t make it out to those supply hubs? I’ll set up shop at Edison. I’ll call myself the sub-hub. I’ll collect all your stuff, and I’ll take it for you if that’s what needs to be done.’”
Despite only about 16 hours of notice on his social media accounts, the response was overwhelming.
“It started off being let’s get the players to just bring something, so we can kind of do this as a team, but it quickly turned into a community-wide thing,” Mr. Afusia said. “People were bringing everything and anything. I had to put out the bat signal to call for some helping hands to bring their trucks.”
An estimated “7 to 10 truckloads” of items collected at Edison wound up at a supply hub in San Clemente en route to Maui. At that point, not wanting to “burden” others with the work involved, Mr. Afusia wasn’t necessarily planning to continue the effort, but fate intervened.
An Edison player’s father, who is a longshoreman superintendent, reported that a company that transports cars and other goods between the mainland and the islands had donated containers for the relief effort.
“He said, ‘Hey, let’s get a big, old U-Haul, we’ll fill it, throw it straight on the container and it’ll be shipped out [Aug. 15],” Mr. Afusia said.
So, there he was Aug. 14, again collecting donations at Edison, against the backdrop of senior registration and a cheerleading camp.
This time, there was 18 hours notice and a more specific list of items needed. There was plenty of clothing and bedding, came the reports from Maui, but camping equipment, tents, flashlights, generators, and gas cans were in short supply.
“We completely filled up the truck, the biggest U-Haul you could get,” Mr. Afusia said. “We went straight to Wilmington. With the massive help of the [longshoremen’s] union, they were jamming, forklifts left and right putting things on crates, we were able to get those essential supplies on the ship that night, so it’s on the way to Hawaii.”
Community members participate in relief efforts to aid victims of the Maui fires at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of Kody Afusia)

Community members participate in relief efforts to aid victims of the Maui fires at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Aug. 14, 2023. (Courtesy of Kody Afusia)

None of this surprised Rich Boyce, Edison’s athletic director.
“Kody has always been a person that when he sees something that needs to be done, he jumps right in,” Mr. Boyce told The Epoch Times. “We’re very proud of all of his efforts, and we’re very proud of all the efforts of our community and our school in doing all we can for Maui.”
Not wanting to risk anything going wrong, Mr. Afusia initially turned down cash contributions. But when people persisted, those donations funded immediate shopping trips.
In the end, given the amount of supplies collected and the speed with which it happened, Mr. Afusia said he isn’t certain of the entire haul.
“I could not quantify how much food, non-perishables, we had donated,” he said. “We had like $1,000 in baby formula, diapers, and wipes, and that was just us buying it. There was a ton more donated. Then $1,500 to $2,000 in camping gear, whether it was dehydrated meals or 30 to 40 tents. It was just awesome to see how everyone came together.”
Further collection efforts are possible, but not set. Mr. Afusia plans to wait to make sure exactly what is needed in Maui to avoid collecting too much of the wrong thing.
“I definitely want to do more,” he said. “If any events happen, I’ll be posting on my social media.”
In the meantime, there is also a football game to play. Edison was able to fill one of the two holes on its schedule created by the canceled Maui trip and will open its season against Helix in La Mesa on Aug. 18.
“I know everybody thinks, ‘Oh, poor Edison, they lost two football games,’ but our entire program and our entire community never thought that way,” Mr. Boyce said. “Our first thoughts were always with the people of Maui and what we could do to help them, and of course Kody is doing everything he can.”
A student walks past a sign for the school's football team at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 10, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A student walks past a sign for the school's football team at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 10, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

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Dan Wood

Dan Wood

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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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