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Halau Kalama and the Spirit of Aloha

Halua Kalama is a nonprofit organization in Aurora that began in 2011 and wanted to bring affordable Polynesian dance to the community. Since then, the organization has flourished and done several outreach projects, along with their annual Lei Day festival, which brings a day of color, dance, food, and flowers. 

“[Halau Kalama] is kind of our way to perpetuate our culture and, at the same time, share it with the world,” says Ellen Akiona, an original member of the nonprofit. “But we also wanted to make it affordable because without a nonprofit status, we would have had to charge the community a lot of money, and we didn’t want to do that.” 

Akiona believes it’s important for everyone to stay true to their values, and, for many people, that stems from their heritage. Akiona moved here from Hawaii and wanted to ensure she passed the traditions to her children. 

“I think it’s very important that everyone holds on to their heritage, and that’s no different with the Polynesian culture. Between the language, the dance, the music, the food, it defines who we are,” Akiona says. “Like any other tradition, you don’t want it to go away.”

A big piece of the Polynesian culture is the Aloha Spirit, which is something that Akiona wants to pass along, and through the organization, she can. 

“The Aloha Spirit is not just two words, but mainly it’s a feeling of home. It’s a feeling of making everyone feel welcome, and it’s giving back or giving without the expectation of receiving. It’s a way of life,” says Akiona. “We use Aloha, not just as an expression, but we live by it.”


Spreading the Aloha Spirit

Since becoming a nonprofit, Halua Kalama has done several outreach projects to not only share their culture with the rest of the world but also to help people who might be struggling. One way the organization gives back to the community is through the Jack Barton Foundation. 

“This was in honor and tribute to one of our teachers in our band school. Her son passed away about four years ago, and it was due to mental health. We started a foundation that helps create awareness of mental health and homelessness. We try to get rid of the stigma that surrounds mental health as well as homelessness,” Akiona says.

In the wintertime, Halua Kalama hosts a clothing drive where they collect various clothing items like socks and shoes. The organization comes together in the spring and summer months to prepare and distribute lunches to people experiencing homelessness. 

“The city doesn’t make it really easy for people to help one another this way. We do what we can, whether it’s bottled water or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We are always open to helping someone else,” Akiona says. 

Even in the peak of the pandemic, the studio opened its doors to the community and provided families with necessities. 

The next big fundraising event is Lei Day on June 24, and guests should expect to be transported to the islands through the beautiful music, delicious Polynesian food, vendors sharing island products, and so much more.  

“Every luau concludes with a fire performance, and this performance is no different. So when I say you’ll feel like you’re being transported–you really will. To me, it’s an inexpensive way to visit all these islands without leaving Colorado,” Akiona says.

Learn more about the Halua Kalama organization and buy a ticket to Lei Day online

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