By Karen McBride
Published by Dunndeal Publications
Carissa Caricato started Hoola for Happiness in 2010. God placed it on her heart after a trip to Haiti in 2009 where she was introduced to hoola dance and the joy it brings to children and adults.
She returned to Haiti a few more times and brought travel hoolas (hoola hoops that fold for easier transport). The hoola hoops are used as a tool to communicate with children and adults and to have fun playing games while sharing God’s word. The team has been to 61 countries spreading God’s love.
Hoola for Happiness began in Tampa, but has spread to India and Brazil. Hoola for Happiness India began when Caricato met an incredible couple living in India and through them, she met a young woman who loved dance and had a heart for the project. The same couple later introduced Caricato to a woman in Brazil who is now running Hoola for Happiness Brazil.
Casey McKinney is the Chief Operating “Hoola-gan”. When she was a junior at USF, she felt the Lord calling her to full-time ministry. She had been involved in mission work and enjoyed working with kids. A friend told her about Hoola for Happiness, and she began interning with the organization when she was in her last semester of school.
“God had brought me to the exact thing He had been calling me to do all along – a life of mission work and working with kids,” said McKinney. “I’m so thankful for the way God truly led me here and made this dream come true.”
Hoola for Happiness was recently at Grace Family Church, where volunteers made hoops consisting of black tubes, which were heated and joined with plastic connectors that allow the hoops to be folded for easier travel. Each hoop was then covered in mechanical tape consisting of five different colors – yellow, black, red, white, and green.
Yellow represents Eternal Life (You are Created)
Black is Darkness and Sin (You are Broken)
Red is Salvation (You are Loved)
White is Purity and Freedom (You are Free)
Green is Growth (You have Purpose)
Volunteers are not only taught how to make the hoops, but also learn child safety measures, how to hoola hoop, and are given general instructions on what they will be doing at events so that they feel prepared.
In February, Hoola for Happiness will be kicking off another year of Weekly Hoop Jam in downtown Tampa at Curtis Hixon Park. The weekly event is held on Wednesday nights from 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Attendees are invited to hoola hoop and learn new tricks.
For more information on upcoming events or volunteering, go to www.hoolaforhappiness.org