Southside Band Members Disappointed Over Cancelled Hawaii Trip

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Band members are making other arrangements after discovering a travel agent robbed them of a trip to Hawaii.

A Southside High School band trip to Hawaii is cancelled, after a travel agent admitted to "mishandling" thousands of dollars paid by students.

"I was shocked first of all, and you didn't really believe it at first, but then once they email your parents, you realize it's real," says Band Co-President Eric Botticher.

Calliope “Ope” Saaga with Performing Hawaii Tours LLC has come forward saying 56% of the money is gone, admitting he mishandled the funds. "He said he was going to repay us every penny," said Southside Band Director Steve Kesner. "He said it was going to take him a little while to do that. Basically he said he made some bad investments and lost the money."

Southside High School officials say more than $267,000 was wired to the company.

Nearly 300 band members, faculty, and several family members were planning to take the trip June 7, which costs about $2,000 per person. Parents tell 5NEWS they’ve been raising money for around a year.

"We sold a vehicle and used that as a down payment on the trip and then we sold cheesecakes," says band parent Ursula Mote.

The band was scheduled to perform at Pearl Harbor and in a parade while in Hawaii.

"It was really disappointing, but things happen, but they did their best to get all the money back and they are providing a very very good consolation trip," says Band Co-President Hannah Lovins.

The Southside band will take a trip to Orlando, Florida instead, according to an email sent to parents by band faculty.

If they don't want to go to Orlando, band directors say they can refund $817 of the $2,000 each of them paid for the Hawaii trip.

Saaga apologized for making bad decisions, according to the email. The school is taking legal action to get the rest of the money back. "Our school district administration is looking into this," said Kesner, "The authorities, legal authorities are looking into it also as to how to proceed now."

The school is hosting a meeting Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. for parents.

Kesner says they’ve used the agency twice in the past.