LOS ANGELES >> Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s upcoming Bellator women’s flyweight championship fight was announced Aug. 9, and it should have been an exciting moment for the Honolulu native who lives and trains in San Diego.
But all Macfarlane could think about was the devastation happening more than 2,500 miles away in Lahaina, where a wildfire started the day before and has become the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.
“It’s a big announcement, and I just couldn’t be happy,” Macfarlane, the first Bellator women’s flyweight champion, told Fox News. “It was such a bittersweet announcement and I just can’t focus on this fight until I do something to try to help our ‘Ohana’ and our friends back in Maui.”
Macfarlane is one of several current and former professional athletes from Hawaii, or who have ties to the state, who are helping those affected by the Maui fire. More than 100 people have died and there are about 1,300 still unaccounted for, according to officials.
Macfarlane started a fundraiser that has raised more than $2 million.
“That’s just a testament to how much love and Aloha that people have for Maui and the people,” she told Fox News.
According to her website, Macfarlane is sending all donations directly “to Lahaina resident and trusted community organizer, Tiare Lawrence, to disperse as needed.” She also has assisted in providing Venmo account information so donations can be sent directly to families affected by the disaster, and helped organize a four-day supply drive in San Diego.
Macfarlane said in an Instagram video that such citizen-organized recovery efforts have been a necessity during the crisis, as public officials continue to be criticized for what is seen by many as a failure to adequately prepare for and respond to this disaster.
“Everything that you’re seeing going on is because of the communities, because of a grassroots effort,” she said. “It’s because of the people, OK? So please don’t forget that. Please support, support, support as much as we can.”
Pro surfer and Maui resident Kai Lenny told CBS News he started delivering supplies to people in need after realizing “nothing was sorta happening” as far as a government response.
“I haven’t seen one state, one county, one federal official at any one of the donation hubs where people are most suffering,” he said. “People are sleeping in their cars. People are asking for specific items now.”
Surfing legend Archie Kalepa has been distributing free supplies from the front yard of his Lahaina home with the help of friends and volunteers.
“We just gotta do what we gotta do,” one friend, Melissah Shishido, told The Los Angeles Times. “We don’t have time to wait for anyone else to come in to help.”
Others from the sports world with ties to the area are doing what they can to help as well.
Former Lakers player and Hall of Fame basketball coach Don Nelson has called Maui home for more than a decade. He and his wife, Joy, own several rental properties on the island and are opening them all to those who lost their homes.
“We’re doing the best we can, but we only have space for about 24 people,” the former coach told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There are thousands of people homeless right now. It’s overwhelming.”
Golfer Collin Morikawa announced he will donate $1,000 for each birdie he makes during the FedEx Cup playoffs to relief efforts in Lahaina, where his grandparents on his father’s side were born and once owned a restaurant.
The Los Angeles native told reporters last week that his relatives are all safe.
“It’s devastating what we’ve been seeing,” Morikawa said. “The before-and-after photos are just heartbreaking, knowing that my entire dad’s side of the family grew up there. … We went there as kids. It’s a special place.”
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a Honolulu native, launched a fundraiser through his Tua Foundation that has raised more than $76,000 for fire victims.
“In the wake of the Maui wildfires, our community needs us more than ever,” Tagovailoa said on the fundraiser’s homepage. “With the strength of our ‘Ohana’ and the deep-rooted values of Aloha, let’s lend a helping hand to those in need. Stand with me in showing the Aloha spirit is unbreakable.”
Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.