By ISABELLA KOZ | Intern
Every year the Clark family travels from Pacific Palisades to the Fijian island Tavarua with 13 other families from the Los Angeles. What started as a vacation has turned into an opportunity to give back to the island that Kelsey Clark fell in love with 19 years ago.
Kelsey first traveled to Tavarua to work on the film “Castaway.”
“It was kind of my dream to come back someday because I just loved the people,” she told the Palisadian-Post about the family’s annual trip. “I loved Fiji, and the owner of this particular island, called Tavarua, was our stunt double for Tom Hanks, so I built a relationship with him while we were filming and stayed in touch with him through the years.”
Nine years ago, when their youngest son out of three was able to endure the 12-hour flight, Kelsey returned—this time with her family. To Kelsey’s surprise, many of the staff members that worked on Tavarua years ago were still there.
She was able to see their families, children and reconnect with the same people she had spent three months with a decade prior to then.
“It was such a healing place for us, it’s really hard to put it into words but it’s just a really sacred place,” she shared. “Anybody that goes there knows it’s not about the tropical vacation, it’s about the Fijian people.”
The Clarks made sure that they would return back to their beloved island each year. After visiting with the whole family, Kelsey called to make a reservation for their next stay, but it was booked.
The owner offered to let the Clarks travel there the first week of January—when the island would usually be closed down for maintenance—as long as they brought other visitors with them. Kelsey took on the role as “group leader,” which meant finding 13 other families to travel with to Tavarua.
The trip was successful and so it became an annual event. Each year, Kelsey finds families who pay their own fares and join the Clarks on the trip.
And because Fiji and the Fijian people have been so good to them, the Clarks were inspired to give back to the island: Each year, they bring with them school supplies to donate, and they encourage other families to do the same.
With this effort, Kelsey’s oldest son Aidan created a nonprofit called FIJILOVE, which raised money for supplies to eventually be sent out to all 330 islands in Fiji.
The Clarks partnered with LuminAID, a company that sells inflatable, waterproof and solar-rechargeable lights to countries all over the world, to hand out to Fijians after cyclone devastation across the islands.
This past year, families involved collectively brought over $5,000 worth of LuminAIDs and school supplies to Fijian residents. Seventy-five backpacks full of supplies were brought, along with the inflatable lanterns and solar-powered USB chargers.
“There are so many connections that make it so special for us, it’s our happy place for that reason,” Kelsey shared. “It’s sacred, it’s spiritual, it’s pretty crazy.”
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