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Help Heal Maui | 4:46

Wildfires in Lahaina: A Hero’s Tale

September 13, 2023


Disaster Relief

After spending time helping Maui wildfire survivors get emergency cash cards over the weeks, Tzu Chi Hawaii volunteer Ching Kim says that everyone who walks in there “has their own touching story.” This included Jeoffrey “Spud” Lenhardt.

A Maui resident since 1998, Spud lost his home and all his belongings to the recent wildfires. “The smoke was so thick and blowing so hard that you couldn’t see your hand in front of you,” he recalled, of when the fires began to engulf his street. But, Spud’s survival instincts kicked in:

“that’s when I grabbed my headlamp that I had, so that I had some light going on, and then it really started to come.”

After a perilous jump into the Pacific Ocean, he swam a mile towards a nearby harbor only to discover that it had been overtaken by flames. Spud, along with many others, were then trapped:

“For the next 7 hours, basically, we all were in the ocean. One family hanging on to a big piece of plywood… There’s families there, there’s four year-old children… There’s four dogs, three cats, there’s a carload of 85 year-old Kūpunas that can barely move.”

But, luckily for his headlamp, Spud is able to finally signal for help, leading to his own rescue and that of his neighbors. Still, Spud is reluctant to puff his chest about it.

“People were like, ‘you’re a hero! You saved so many people!’ No, I was just a guy with a headlamp… I was just a guy with a headlamp. But that thing saved us. It saved me and it saved us all.”

Yet, hearing his story, Tzu Chi Hawaii Volunteer Pamela Sue perfectly says:

“most heroes don’t know they’re heroes, and they don’t acknowledge that they’re heroes. That’s just what a hero does.”

Watch this moving story and make a contribution to our fundraiser*,

*BONUS: when you make a donation until Sept 30, 2023, your gift will be matched, dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million. Use the link above and give today.


Director: Daniel Ferrara
DP: Yanxin Piao
Additional footage: Jeoffrey “Spud” Lenhardt
Music: Flint - Experience Sonder, Aija Alsina - Fragile, Roman P - Heart, zero - Unexpected, Diamonds And Ice - Orchids


buddhism in action , nonprofit organization , trauma , grief , survival , Disaster Relief , Hero , Volunteering , heroism , Charity , Wildfire , Engaged Buddhism , Fundraiser , Volunteerism , disaster response , hawaii , maui , lahaina

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