Alaska Airlines gives magical gift of travel to families impacted by Maui wildfires 

Video by Blake Ramelb

Earlier this month, Jordan Cabanilla and his family enjoyed their last ride of the evening before the gates were closing at Southern California’s Disneyland Resort. After a fun-filled day at the park, Jordan’s three kids – AJ, Jade, and Ethan – had not stopped smiling. 

Their youthful excitement filled Jordan with emotion. However, it was his wife’s smile that made him pause throughout the weekend.  

“Pretty much everything has been on my wife since the fire,” Jordan said. “Just for that short time at Disneyland, she was able to smile instead of thinking about, ‘OK, I got to take care of this for the funerals, meet with lawyers, deal with probate.’” 

Jordan and his wife, Ana, lost their business and home on Aug. 8 in the wind-whipped wildfires that leveled the historic town of Lahaina on the west side of Maui and damaged or destroyed another 2,200 residential structures. 

But losing the home that Jordan and his wife bought with their entire life savings was no measure against the loss of Ana’s older brother, her brother’s wife and young son.  

“They were able to escape, but then got trapped in the neighborhood,” he said.  

Jordan opened up about the chain of events that likely saved his own life and his children’s that day. It began with Ana telling him to fix a part of their fence the wind had knocked down.  

“That morning, Ana woke me up and told me, ‘You gotta take care of that before it flies into someone’s home,’” he said. “I’ve lived in Lahaina all my life and I’ve never seen winds that strong. I was able to call out sick and stayed home with the kids. About four o’ clock, my wife called and told me, ‘There’s a fire up the road that’s moving pretty quick; you guys got to get out.’ I looked outside — everything had turned black.” 

Jordan’s home was engulfed in flames just minutes after they packed what they could in their car and left Lahaina, his friends told him later. 

“If I hadn’t been at home, I don’t know how I would’ve been able to get to my kids because the wind had knocked down the utility poles and blocked the roads,” he said. 

Like many in the community since the fire, Jordan and his family have resolved to provide a sense of normalcy for their children amid the challenges of rebuilding their lives.  

Our kids reminisce about the house and their toys,” Lahaina Resident Rose Ann Recites said. “Sometimes we feel like we don’t know if we want to be on the island. I still cannot believe that this happened.” 

Photo courtesy of Disneyland® Resort

Rose Ann and her husband, Eric, lived in his childhood home along with their two children, Danica and Rylee. The fire took everything, including mementos of their son – Ryan Luis – who passed away from Leukemia several years ago. A lock of his hair, the last outfit he was wearing and his handprints. 

Miguel Ceballos, his wife Lindsay, and their four children have moved nine times since being displaced by the fire.  

Our community, we’re so supportive of each other,” Jordan said. “Within twelve hours, people were donating clothes, water, food.” 

Alaska Airlines helped transport 220,000 pounds of relief supplies to impacted communities in the weeks following the fires and immediately sent rescue flights to help evacuees off the island and make room for recovery efforts. 

Alaska collaborated with long-time partner and local non-profit Kanu Hawaiʻi to distribute 27 million miles — donated by Alaska, employees and guests — to those who needed support but could no longer afford the cost of flying.  In total, 544 impacted Maui residents were helped with these miles.

When we heard that families, such as the Cabanillas, Recites and Ceballos, were seeking refuge from the daily struggle of rebuilding their lives – we knew we had to do more. 

Earlier this month, Alaska surprised the Cabanillas, Recites and Ceballos families with a weekend-long vacation to California’s beloved Disneyland Resort along with a stay at the Westin Anaheim hotel. 

Alaska asked Kanu Hawai‘i to help find families that would benefit from Alaska’s Gift of Travel – a program in which we give the magic of travel to those who deserve it most, whether through an all-inclusive trip, roundtrip tickets or donated miles.  

Earlier this month, Alaska surprised the Cabanillas, Recites and Ceballos families with a weekend-long vacation to California’s beloved Disneyland Resort along with a stay at the Westin Anaheim hotel. 

“I didn’t want to believe it because it was too good to be true,” Rose Ann said. “We were due for a family trip after what we’ve been through. More importantly, the kids deserved it.” 

Rose Ann and Eric’s kids couldn’t celebrate their birthdays because of the fires. 

“We surprised our kids just hours before getting on the plane,” said Miguel. “To give them that magical sense that there’s hope in their lives after all this has just been amazing. We really appreciate Alaska Airlines for this amazing gift.” 

Want to give the Gift of Travel to other Maui families?  

Contributions made to the Alaska Airlines Disaster Relief Pool through Dec. 31, 2023, will be donated to Kanu Hawaiʻi and Maui Rapid Response to provide travel support for Maui residents impacted by the wildfires.  Alaska will match the miles donated, up to one million miles.