By Chris Takahashi | Staff Writer
Musician Jack Johnson returned to Oʻahu this past weekend ahead of an upcoming album release in September for what Natalie McKinney described as a “great homecoming” and a “tremendous opportunity for us to raise some funds for the organization (Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation).” McKinney is the executive director for the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, an environmental education nonprofit that Johnson started in 2003 with his wife, Kim.
Jack Johnson performed with special guests Paula Fuga, Jake Shimabukuro, Zach Gill, among others, during the benefit concerts held this past Friday and Saturday evening at the Waikīkī Shell. All proceeds from the weekend will directly support programs run by Johnson’s nonprofit, Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation. The nonprofit works on a number of educational and advocacy programs that most prominently engage with youth in schools across the state.
In keeping with an ethos of environmental stewardship, Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation collaborated with many partner organizations to create a more sustainable concert experience at the Waikīkī Shell. McKinney explained that some greening initiatives, such as those to completely minimize plastic waste, were unique to the weekend. Concert goers were able to purchase an official Jack Johnson or Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation reusable water bottle and even take advantage of a complimentary bicycle valet service from the Hawai‘i Bicycling League.
While a noted musician like Jack Johnson is helpful in drawing enthusiastic crowds, McKinney was reminded that “the engagement piece is probably one of the highlights” for the benefit shows that took place over the weekend. Many people end up engaging with partner groups in a volunteer role after the music and festivities come to a close.
Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation is a beneficiary of the many volunteers that help support some of their programs, including the well-known ʻĀINA In Schools program. This program encourages “farm to school” initiatives in the realm of local food production. 22 schools have partnered with the nonprofit to establish healthy campus gardens, composting, and to receive educational curricula in subjects of nutrition and Hawaii-based agriculture, among others.
Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation is also an active advocate of reducing plastic waste through its Plastic Free Hawai‘i campaign, and additionally served as a partner to a recent environmental documentary called “The Smog of the Sea” which focused on raising awareness about plastic waste in the oceans. On Sept. 16, Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation will be participating in the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Day in two different locations on Oʻahu.
To learn more about the different programs run by Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, or how you can become involved as a volunteer, check out their website at www.kokuahawaiifoundation.org.