Two young sisters from Kailua, Hawaii, made it their mission to warm some hearts and spread aloha at this year's winter Olympics. Escorted by their parents, 5-year-old Kyrie and 4-year-old Alle'Lujah Tooke spent more than a week in Sochi, Russia, with the express purpose of handing out approximately 2,000 leis to total strangers.
"I love making friends from around the world," Kyrie said of the project. "Leis always make new friends smile. I give my new friend’s leis and it makes them happy."
"The Russian people were so shockingly receptive," the girls' mother, Darcy Tooke, told The Huffington Post of the experience.
The Slovak Olympic team, for instance, gave the girls event tickets for their kindness. Another man, after receiving his lei and having a short conversation with them, came back to find the girls -- he wanted to give them 30,000 rubles (almost $1,000).
But one of the most touching interactions came with a worker at the Bosco store in Olympic Park. According to Darcy, the woman looked "like she was ready to break down."
"She was rubbing her temples and you could just tell she had had a long day. The customer before us had been chewing her out."
Kyrie said, "She really needs some aloha, mommy. We need to give her a lei." The 5-year-old then whipped out a lei from her backpack and approached the woman with one of the few Russian phrases the family had practiced, "I'm from Hawaii. This is a gift for you."
According to Darcy, the woman, who had begun crying, bent down on one knee so that Kyrie could put a shell lei around her neck and the two hugged.
Since fresh flower leis wouldn't survive the trip, the Tooke family brought shell and kukui nut leis from Hawaii -- weighing down their luggage by about 160 pounds.
The trip was sponsored by Experience Paradise Project, a privately funded organization that describes itself as "where art meets Aloha." Darcy and her husband have a solar development company in Hawaii, but like to see themselves as "post-modern artists." They try, according to Darcy, to "mix philosophy with artistic endeavors" in an effort to "discover something new about ourselves in the process."
Before the girls were born, the couple spent some time in the slums of Mumbai where they bought 13 sex slaves their freedom. That experience, Darcy says, was largely about learning about redemption.
The Olympic experience, the mother hopes, taught the girls about the power of aloha and that "when you give, people will respond."
The experience was also apparently a blast. After seeing some events, Kyrie decided that she loves curling ("probably because she is really into science") and Alle'Lujah came to love figure skating since it reminded her of Disney princesses.