When American Savings Bank in Honolulu heard that a local nonprofit was planning a round-the-world sea odyssey, the lender wanted to put the wind in its sails.

The bank has launched a fundraising effort to support the Polynesian Voyaging Society's four-year, 46,000-mile tour, which will educate people in 26 countries about Hawaiian culture and environmental responsibility. From March 24 through April 19, American Savings is collecting donations at its 57 branches. Customers who kick in $25 or more receive an eco-friendly tote bag printed with a map of the Voyaging Society's route.

"This is a very big event for Hawaii and the local community," says Tab Bowers, executive vice president of marketing and business development at American Savings. "They need support both spiritual and financial."

American Savings' efforts to back the odyssey go beyond accepting donations. The $5.2 billion-asset lender is sponsoring print ads about the voyage as well as a television ad that combines narration about the nonprofit's mission with images of its traditional double-hulled canoe, the Hokule'a, gliding across a wide-open sea. (A high-tech canoe powered by electric motors as well as solar and wind energy, the Hikianalia, will accompany the Hokule'a on the voyage.) The bank's holding company, Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI), also donated a five year, $250,000 grant to help the Voyaging Society document and share its journey.

The lender will continue championing the expedition after the canoes set sail on May 17, according to Bowers.

"We'll keep running the TV spots even after they launch, and we'll be trying to tie it in to other educational efforts to help keep schools connected to the voyage," says Bowers. The bank is currently dreaming up contests that would encourage students to follow the progress of the canoes as they wind their way to New Zealand, Australia, Africa and beyond, he says.

While American Savings has held fundraisers in the past, collecting donations for victims of the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Bowers says the Polynesian Voyaging Society has proven to be a particularly popular cause.

"It looks like there will be much broader and higher levels of support based on early indicators," he says. "There's such broad interest in it throughout the local community because it's not just for a subcomponent [of the population]. … It's important to the identity of the local community."

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