Cold hard cash for youth sports

The Tropical Shaved Kona Ice truck really stands out, from the potpourri of bright colors to the cartoon birds to the smiling sun with sunglasses.

When people walk up to the truck, most have smiles on their faces as they purchase their treats.

Shave ice isn’t the only refreshing thing Art and Stephanie Thomas supply from their travels around Maui, however. Money the husband and wife team generate from sales has benefitted youth sports on the island.

Art Thomas, who handles the bulk of the truck’s day-to-day operation, said they have donated $23,000, primarily to youth soccer organizations on Maui, since purchasing a Kona franchise in 2010.

“Youth sports for us is ideal to give back, especially the young youth sports, because a lot of people in charge of it are volunteers, so all of that money goes back to the kids,” Thomas said. “It goes toward purchasing goals, equipment and even scholarship programs. We saw our money going the furthest in youth sports so we targeted that.”

The Hawaii Youth Soccer Association, Hawaii Youth Soccer Federation, Hawaii Soccer Federation and West Maui American Youth Soccer Organization have been the main beneficiaries, Thomas said. Donations have also gone to baseball and football teams at the youth and high school levels.

A good deal of the truck’s business is done at youth sports events. Once proper paperwork is approved with the county, Thomas shows up at events and sells his product – then 20 to 30 percent of the profits are donated to the organization.

Thomas said he owns two Kona Ice trucks on Maui. He and his drivers also show up at parties and have neighborhood routes.

Tony Medeiros, the president of HYSA, said Thomas helped raise $3,000 for the organization last year.

“He approached the league and asked if we needed some help raising funds,” Medeiros said.

Thomas said establishing club-team scholarships for players based on financial need was a priority.

“I grew up in a poor household with a single mom, so trying to find opportunities on select clubs, it can cost a lot of money,” said Thomas, who grew up in Dryden, N.Y. “I always got generous donations from friends of the family and family members and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to give back, because I was afforded that opportunity.”

Medeiros said the yearly registration fee for HYSA is $70, and that $25 scholarships were awarded to 30 players last year.

West Maui AYSO regional commissioner Annie Hayes said the Thomases donated more than $1,300 to the organization last year, and some players in the organization received $30 scholarships to help cover the $75 registration fee. She added that a $250 scholarship for a college-bound player from the organization is also awarded each year.

“We’ve heard nothing but positive things. He’s wonderful for our community,” Hayes said.

Youth soccer volunteers also receive a coupon for a discounted shave ice.

Thomas said the Maui High School baseball program got a $300 donation from two days of sales last week during the Sabers’ tournament at Iron Maehara Stadium.

* Kyle Sakamoto is at