LSUS weightlifting hosting fundraising competition Sunday to help Hawaiian fire victims

SHREVEPORT – LSUS assistant weightlifting coach Kela Kauha’aha’a remembers watching fires burn in the distance from the Lahainaluna High School football field during practice on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

She still remembers seeing the scorch marks from a particular fire years ago that was close enough where residents across the street from the school evacuated their homes.

But when the Aug. 8 fires roared across Maui and engulfed large portions of the town of Lahaina, all Kauha’aha’a could do in Shreveport was watch the video clips of her home island roll in.

“It was very much a shock at first, and seeing it all develop was pretty awful,” Kauha’aha’a said. “It’s not the first time we’ve dealt with fires, but obviously this result was different.

“You try not to fall into that sense of hopelessness because you’re not there to personally do anything for your family and friends that were affected.”

But Kauha’aha’a and the LSUS weightlifting program are doing something to help.

They are putting on the Lifting Up Lahaina Fundraiser, a weightlifting competition where lifters can compete and raise money for Lahainaluna High students.

The event is Sunday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. at LSUS’s USA Weightlifting Development Center.

“At the very least for myself, it’s giving me a purpose,” said Kauha’aha’a, who also serves as an intern in the LSUS Human Performance Lab. “This is something we can do to help.”

Lifters can compete in the repetition maximum competition for $50, and spectators can pay $10 to attend. Lifters will have 10 minutes to reach a repetition maximum in the snatch and clean and jerk lifts. Prizes will be based on Sinclair totals.

The weightlifting program is hosting a silent auction with items like Hele Fitness bags and classic weightlifting gear available for bid.

The fundraiser will combine with an already scheduled event as Kelsey Lensman was lifting weights as part of her Mission48 initiative. Lensman is completing 48 competitions in 48 days – everything from lifting weights to running marathons —  across the country to raise awareness about self-confidence in women and girls through sport and fitness.

“(Kelsey) was all for combining the events when we approached her,” said Aaron Adams, the human performance lab director and a former LSUS weightlifter. “This competition will have constant action as lifters will rotate in and out.

“We’ll have platform sponsors and banner sponsors available as well.”

Kauha’aha’a said her family was fortunate not to be among the 115 fatalities associated with the fire, but the entire community has felt its impact.

“My great grandmother’s house is gone – we would have a lot of holiday parties there,” Kauha’aha’a said. “My old babysitter’s house is gone.

“There was a house where we could lift weights outside after COVID-19 hit where we would also host gatherings. It’s gone, too.”

LSUS hosted four Lahainaluna High weightlifters in July as they prepared for U.S. nationals, including Kela’s brother Hanale. The trip served as a recruiting visit complete with campus tours for the lifters.

While Lahainluna High wasn’t directly affected, the students – including Hanale – haven’t returned to school because of environmental concerns caused by the fire.

Instead Hanale and father Lawrence have been a major part of the response team on the island, helping deliver food and supplies to the community.

“Aside from being a coach at the high school and being a career police officer, our dad had a contract with the county before the fire, and that’s been repurposed to help with donations and drives,” Kela Kauha’aha’a said. “They would go out and drop supplies at places or just find people who needed them.”

Other students who visited the LSUS campus this summer were Michael Rayray, Kuola Watson and Kailah Caballero.

All donations collected will be sent to families of Lahainaluna High students via the LSUS Foundation.

For more information about the competition, sponsorships, or how to donate, email Aaron Adams at