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Crystal Smith Is Crowned The Big Kahuna for Watauga Habitat’s 2018 Fundraising Campaign

By Elly Murray

The Watauga Habitat for Humanity hosted its Crowning of the Big Kahuna at Lost Province Thursday night at 8 p.m.

The 2018 Big Kahuna Campaign is a program through Habitat for Humanity where eleven community leaders, or Kahunas, reach out to their community, family, and friends, and convince them to donate to Watauga Habitat’s home building efforts. The Kahuna who raises the most money is crowned Watauga County Habitat for Humanity’s 2018 Big Kahuna.

This year’s participants were:

  • Crystal Smith, Appalachian Mountain Brewery
  • Patti Turner, Premier Sotheby’s Realty
  • Ella Jennings, 5th grader at Two Rivers Community School
  • Mark Murrey, Greenway Medical Associates
  • Brianna Lance, ASU Habitat Club President
  • Liz Riddick, Keller-Williams
  • Ray Reid, Local Mail Carrier
  • Scott Williford, The Cardinal Food and Spirits
  • Ed Tausche, Cedar House LLC
  • Todd Rice, Blowing Rock Brewing Company

Former Watauga Habitat for Humanity’s Big Kahunas are Linda Robinson, of Village Real Estate, who wore the inaugural crown in 2015 after she raised $13,503.00.   In 2016, Justin Davis, owner of Blowing Rock Town Tavern, raised over $6000 beating out the other competitors. In 2017, Jenny Miller took home the crown by raising $12,632. 

On Thursday, the winner of the 2018 Big Kahuna Campaign was announced at the Don Ho-Down at Lost Province Brewing Company. The celebration took place from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. and the crowning of the Big Kahuna happened at 8:15 p.m. Donations to the eleven Kahuna Campaigns continued to occur until 7:45 p.m. Music was provided by the Dashboard Hula Boys.

The top five Kahunas received some praise before the Big Kahuna was finally announced. In fifth place, having raised $2,335 was Brianna Lance, also know as “Bree the Comeback Kid Lance”. Lance is the Appalachian State University Habitat Club president, and she really did her part to help both Watauga Habitat and her school’s club. Alex Hooker, the microphone controller, commented as he brought her up to the stage, “Notice that she was hanging in there at 6 p.m. and then finally she came and got under the hump right there at the end, really pulling through.”

In fourth place, having raised $6,132 was Mark Murrey, of Greenway Medical Associates. As Murrey arrived to the stage, Hooker introduced him as, “my doctor, a lot of people’s doctor.” As a doctor to many of Watauga’s families in need, Murrey was spurred on to help the Watauga Habitat by his empathy.

Coming in at third place, having raised $8,678 , was Ella Jennings, a fifth grader at Two Rivers Community School. Ella was very happy to be able to be able to raise as much money for Habitat as she did, and she said later that her secret was, “A letter writing campaign… It’s a traditional way to raise money and people really appreciate that.” Not only was Ella the youngest Kahuna in the history of this event, but she also 110 donors, the most donors of any Kahuna event.

The runner up for the 2018 Big Kahuna Championship, having raised $19,352 was Patti Turner of Premier Sotheby’s Realty. She has been an impassioned member of the Big Kahuna program ever since her real estate partner, Linda Robinson, won the Big Kahuna Championship two years ago. Like Ella, Patti also believes letter writing is the way get more donors interested and she says, “You know, you can go online and you can go on Facebook, but if you receive a letter, it means a lot these days. And that’s where I got my biggest checks.” A sample from one of her letters includes the touching statement, “The mission of Habitat for Humanity touches all of our hearts, whether one is a part-time resident or a year-round resident. We all know that home ownership offers a sense of pride, stability, and reassurance when raising a family.”

Finally, the winner of the 2018 Big Kahuna Championship, having raised $19,831, was Crystal Smith of Appalachian Mountain Brewery. She is very passionate about the Habitat for Humanity program, and once she was on stage, she gave a very short but inspirational speech:

“I’m going to make this really quick. I just wanted to thank everybody that donated, every Kahuna that made this possible. We’ve raised a lot of money, and that’s going to help a beautiful family in the high country. Lets continue supporting each other and lifting each other up and do great things that we’re proud of. Thank you.”

In total, the Kahunas raised $61,978 for Watauga Habitat for Humanity, a record-breaking amount compared to previous years. Hooker said, “that’s almost enough to build half a house for a family that really needs it, so we really appreciate what you all did.”

Allison Jennings, the director of development for Watauga Habitat for Humanity and mother of Ella Jennings, said, “We had a budget of around $35,000 and we almost doubled that. I cannot believe it.” She went on to say that, “The High Country community is an amazing community to be a part of…. I mean, I feel like I know half the people in this room, and everybody came out to support a great cause. It’s just an incredible community to be a part of.”

For more information about the Watauga Habitat for Humanity, please visit their website at http://www.wataugahabitat.org/



Lost Providence was the venue for the Ho Down where The Big Kahuna was announced
Fundraising and donations were accepted up to the last minute deadline as constants work to increase their total donations
Brianna Lance in 5th place
Mark Murrey in 4th place
Ella Jennings in 3rd place
Patti Turner in 2nd place
Crystal Smith is crowned the Big Kahuna with the ceremonial hat

The Kahuna gang pose for a picture

Alex Hooker announces the grand total of $61,928