David and Tiffanie Lewis, Members of Exclusive Resorts since 2021, received the dreaded text at 1 a.m. that all parents fear — their daughters Emily, Audrey, and a group of girlfriends were stranded on Maui during the devasting 2023 wildfire. No phones could make outgoing calls, so Emily, a new mom herself, relayed via text that she and her 13 girlfriends — traveling together for Emily’s intended birthday celebration — were okay and safe, but without a place to stay. The group of young women had been vacationing at the Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club in Ka’anapali. After hiking to a waterfall before the fire started, they were unable to return to the property once chaos ensued. Many of them were without cell phones, Audrey required medicine, another was pregnant, and all had no luggage. Most had only their bikinis, coverups, towels, and hiking shoes.
Remaining calm for his daughters, David suggested they camp out in the Walmart parking lot with other misplaced locals and visitors while he and Tiffanie sorted out a plan. Emily took the girls to a nearby hospital to get essential prescription medicines that were no longer accessible back at the hotel with their other belongings. After working through the night and early morning looking for options across the entire island, David couldn’t find shelter for all the girls. Desperate, David decided to reach out to Exclusive Resorts CEO James Henderson, who was on a plane to Italy.
“Fortunately, or maybe ironically, I had done a podcast with James in 2021 so I had his mobile number,” David says. “I texted a message saying: I'm sorry to reach out to you in desperation, and I'm not sure if you know what's going on in Hawaii. We have 13 girls — friends and family members — who have been displaced. Do you have any ideas of locations that may be available? Within 30 minutes James responded with: Let me mobilize my team and find the right contact for you.”
He connected David with Jennifer Lee-Larson, the Exclusive Resorts Regional Operations Manager for The Club's Hawaiian properties, who was on the ground in Maui. She immediately assisted the family while navigating her own personal stress during the tragedy.
Jen quickly secured a three-bedroom villa at the Ho’olei Villas at Grand Wailea for all the girls. During their stay, the group was able to secure necessary medicine, remain safe, and enjoy some time together, best-laid plans aside. “Jen was a Godsend,” says Tiffanie. “We were so lucky. When they arrived, they had a feeling of elation and happiness, but also a lot of guilt because many people on the island weren’t in such a fortunate situation. They attempted twice to get back to the original resort for their belongings but got turned back a few times. And then the roads closed altogether."
After staying at their Exclusive Resorts villa for a week, when they were finally able to drive back to the Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club in Ka’anapali to retrieve their belongings, the devastation was unbelievable. “That's when they realized they had been making good decisions. They didn’t fully comprehend the fire until they saw the severity of what had happened on that part of the island.” Tiffanie adds she was proud of the girls for making quick decisions under duress. “The smartest thing they did was depart the danger zone quickly, as they had access to more supplies than those who stayed in West Maui,” Tiffanie explains. “Imagine for several days not having water, electricity, and being unable to charge your phone — not knowing anything that's going on other than what the hotel is telling you.”
In return for Jen’s kindness, the Lewis Family gifted a valuable Costco gift card to a family in need. “We wanted to do something, to pay it forward,” says David. To further support the island, they planned two trips this year to Maui — one to the Montage Kapalua Bay and another to the Ho’olei Villas at Grand Wailea with a group of Tiffanie’s girlfriends for her own girl’s getaway. “We’re planning to see Jen and meet her in person,” says Tiffanie. “The group of 13 girls still have their group text thread going today. I think for several weeks after the fire, some had PTSD. But they have discussed the silver linings of the experience, how it’s brought them closer together and given them confidence to keep traveling.”
When asked how the experience changed their perception of Exclusive Resorts, David adds, “I was a bit hesitant to reach out to James in my moment of need, as I was unsure what was happening with other Club Members who were staying on Maui at the time of the fire. But when James texted me, when I was desperate to help my daughters and their friends, he typed, ‘It’s the least I can do for Members of our Community.’ The Club was up for the challenge and wanted to come through for us. It always feels that way, with every single experience we have ever had with the Exclusive Resorts team.”