By Gianna Holiday
For the past ten weeks, 12 community members have been raising money on behalf of the Watauga County Habitat for Humanity for its fifth annual Big Kahuna contest.
The original campaign goal was to raise $35,000 but by completion, over $39,200 was brought in.
On May 15, the final day of the campaign, $24,000 had been raised and it was unclear whether or not the $35,000 would be reached. However, in the final hours, the Kahunas managed to not only meet but also exceed the goal.
“I did not see how we were going to reach our goal. We had originally budgeted $35,000 but I would have been thrilled to raise $30,000,” said Allison Jennings, director of development for Watauga Habitat for Humanity. “But our community pulled together and supported each other because that was what it was all about: supporting people, not just Habitat.”
In the end, the Big Kahuna leaderboard included the top five people who brought in the most donations. All 12 fundraisers were honored for their efforts on Wednesday at the Big Kahuna Don Ho-Down at Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone.
Coming in fifth place was seventh-grader Emma Martin from Hardin Park. Born and raised in Boone, she ended up bringing in $3,324 and hopes to encourage more young people to get involved in their communities.
Next in fourth place was Tom McDonnell, an IT Specialist at App State University who brought in $4,339. He is an Appalachian State University alumni himself and has been working in IT support since 2004.
In third place was Rob Lewis, another Appalachian State alumni, of ECRS. He began his career with ECRS in 1994 and recently celebrated 25 years with the company as IT Director. Lewis was able to raise $4,711.
The runner-up for the Big Kahuna was South Dakota native Jane Meyers, an accomplished businesswoman with successful endeavors. After retirement, she opened Fritz and Riley Consignments in Blowing Rock. Meyers has also supported the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge, Boone Cancer Society and many other non-profits. Meyers brought in $8,880 for the fundraiser.
Finally, Ginny Morgan Walker of Mountain Times publications was crowned the Big Kahuna for bringing in $11,334. Walker shared a common past with one of her donors, who made it their mission to help her raise a lot of funds for the campaign.
“I was just blown away by the generosity last night,” said Jennings. “All of the Kahunas did a great job and were very committed to this cause. It’s amazing how they pulled together at the last minute.”
The Watauga Habitat for Humanity partners with hard-working, low-income families in the community by allowing them to build their homes alongside volunteers. The families then pay for their homes with zero-interest mortgages.
The Big Kahuna campaign has collectively raised almost a quarter of a million dollars for the local community since 2015.
At this time, Habitat has placed 29 families in affordable homes and intend to soon announce their next family.