By Matt Vines

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 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 be combined 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.