'Hula-hoop Missionary' changing lives all over the world

Bay News 9 article
By Chris Hopper, Reporter
Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Tampa woman is using a child's toy to change lives all over the world.

Carissa Caricato is known as the 'Hula-hoop Missionary.'

People have used Hula-hoops for exercise and fun for thousands of years, but she's using them in the 21st century to change lives.

"Spread the joy of 'hooping' and the love of God all over the world, one hoop at a time," said Caricato.

That's Caricato's mission and she lives by it every day. Caricato started the non-profit organization 'Hoola for Happiness' about a year ago.

"It just really connects you with your inner child, like with kids, they just love having fun," Caricato said.

Caricato takes her hoops with her everywhere she goes, and everywhere includes the four countries she's been to in the past year, several trips to Haiti, (London) England, Kenya and Uganda.

"I have been helping the international ministries with marketing, fundraising and a website; just all of those kinds of things," Caricato said. "Then, every afternoon, we would take the kids out and play after their school time."

Carissa quit her job in marketing at a non-profit group (Crisis Center of Tampa Bay) in Tampa on July 29 to follow her Hula-hooping dream.

"This has been on my heart for over a year, so it just kind of came to that point that I literally had to make that leap of faith," said Caricato.

Amazingly enough, she's not worried about money or how she'll get her next meal. Her focus is on where she'll go next and who she can help when she gets there.

"I don't give as much as they give me -- ever."

Caricato just returned again from Haiti. She said her next trip will be to Brazil in September.