An aerial view of the Lahaina wildfire, one of four fires that devastated the island of Maui. Photo: Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

Annapolis Paddle Fundraiser will Support Maui Wildfire Victims

The co-owners of an Annapolis paddle sport shop with close ties to Maui are staging a fundraising paddle this weekend, with all proceeds going to support Hawaiians impacted by the wildfires.

Mark Bandy and Mark Saunders, co-owners of East of Maui Boardshop in Annapolis, have developed strong relationships with Maui locals over the years. As soon as they realized they had the opportunity to help out victims of the Lahaina wildfires, they moved quickly. 

“Mark (Bandy) was sitting in the shop and it was a little quiet,” Mark Saunders says. “All of a sudden, he just said, ‘I think we should do a paddle for Maui. And I said, ‘Done deal. Let’s start working on this right now.’”

Bandy and Saunders have enjoyed this form of mind-synchronicity since Saunders joined the shop 30 years ago. At the time, Bandy was a general manager and there were three locations. In 2003, Bandy and Saunders went in as co-owners for the Annapolis shop. And while they are an East Coast shop, they were working with native Hawaiians regularly. Brands such as Naish, Olukai, and Starboard all started in Maui and sold directly to the Annapolis store. 

East of Maui Boardshop will host a Paddle for Maui in Annapolis to raise funds for the Hawaiian families they’ve gotten to know through their business. Facebook photo.

“Maui is now and has always been the mecca for windsurfing, surfing, and extreme ocean water sports,” Saunders says. “We have a lot of business connections that started with headquarters in Maui, and those connections over the years have become real friends. We’re trying to raise money for our friends.” 

One of those friends is Suzie Cooney, a former Maryland native and friend to the Marks, now a Maui local. As she was directly impacted by the wildfires, Bandy and Saunders asked her to help them get funds directly to people on the ground.   

“Unfortunately, in tragedy there’s a lot of fraud,” says Saunders. “So we’ve been talking to locals to see who really needs it. Suzie’s right there, and she’s telling us what she needs.” 

The Marks knew that the best way to raise interest in their fundraiser was to go directly to the robust paddleboarding community here on the Chesapeake Bay. 

“We have an incredible paddling community here in Annapolis,” Saunders says. “We knew they’d want to come out and help.” 

The Paddle for Maui is set for Sunday, Sept. 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Annapolis Maritime Museum’s Park Campus. The cost is a modest $25 and all funds go directly to helping those impacted by the fires. If you cannot paddle, please consider signing up as a way to donate. 
For more information, click here.

-Duffy Perkins