GoodLiving Magazine Feature

Back to School Issue, Fall 2011 (Good People: Carissa Caricato)

Most parents would have some concerns if their 25-year-old college-educated daughter quit a good job to become a full-time hoola hooper. Not the parents of Carissa Caricato. In fact, they contributed and supported her as she made her first few overseas trips with her bright-as-sunshine smile and a stack of hoops bound for Haiti, and then Africa.

It started with a hoola hoop fitness class in South Tampa. But then she got good. Really good. Which led her to the idea of carrying some travel hoops on a mission trip to Haiti with South Tampa Fellowship, just weeks before the deadly earthquake. “I was devastated when I learned of the earthquake and couldn’t wait to go back,” she said. That following May, she took more hoola hoops to bring smiles to newly orphaned Haitian children who really needed some love and a dose of her infectious joy.

The tiny seeds of thought about doing ministry full time blossomed at an E-women Network International Conference, where she went on scholarship for being Tampa’s Emerging Leader of the Year. She sat in on sessions that encouraged female entrepreneurs to create a vision for
their lives. “The discussions about finding your dream and being bold and courageous really got me thinking about making this ministry idea a reality. Before I left the conference, I had a logo, a website and a plan.”

Since then, hoops have been donated to ten countries and have made numerous appearances in the U.S. and right here in Tampa Bay. She has recently partnered with Feeding Children Everywhere, traveling with them and now serving in a marketing capacity for them too. “I didn’t have this arrangement when I decided to leave my job. It was total trust that God would provide and He has. One thing I have learned already is that I can be very happy with much, much less than I had before.”

Carissa’s last day at her old job as director of marketing for the Crisis Center of Tampa was July 29th, so her new full-time career in ministry is new indeed. She was on her own one week before heading back to Haiti with a stack of new hoops ready to bring more smiles.

Tampa will remain her home base and when she is in town, is available to speak and perform for area youth at events and programs. She recalls her own youth. “I was seeking adventure at parties with drinking and craziness, but was missing something. I love to be extreme and have always refused to live a safe life. I finally learned I could have all the adventure I need through Christ, and the joy I have now is never ending.”

Follow her on Facebook at Hoola for Happiness. To donate to the ministry, go to her site at