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Hawaii Residents Honor Orlando With A Mile-Long 'Lei Of Aloha'

The hand-woven gift contains 49 shells, each inscribed with the name of a victim who died in this month's massacre.

Hawaii may be thousands of miles away, but the islands have touched those affected by the Orlando massacre with the spirit of aloha.

A group of volunteers from the island of Maui flew to the Florida city on Wednesday to honor the 49 victims of a gay nightclub shooting and help the city heal with a mile-long "Lei of Aloha."

The lei was so large, they had to divide it into three sections and deliver it to three separate memorials, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The group laid one lei in front of Pulse nightclub to honor the victims who died there. They presented another section to the Orlando Regional Medical Center, in support of medical professionals and the wounded who are in their care. The last section of the lei was displayed at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Each one "represents joy, love, and healing and peace," Lehua Kekehuna, a Hawaii representative, told WKMG Orlando. "That's what we're hoping it will do for everyone here."

Maui resident Ron Ponzo began to organize the lei-making tribute on the island days after the Orlando massacre. Nearly 400 volunteers turned out to help.

They wove ti leaves and four truckloads worth of flowers to create the symbolic gift. The lei was embellished with 49 cowrie shells, each one inscribed with a victim's name. 

Ponzo organized a similar lei tribute for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris last year.

This time, six representatives from Maui brought the lei to Orlando for a traditional blessing.

"Even though we're 5,000 miles away and another huge ocean away, we feel the pain, we feel the shock," one of the Hawaii volunteers told WFTV9.

"We just wanted to reach out and give Orlando a hug to remind people that there's way more good people out there than there are bad people."

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