Students “Become That Someone” on Spring Break Mission Trips to Florida, Ecuador and the Bahamas


Several groups traveled to Florida, Ecuador and the Bahamas through the HUGS (Helping the Underprivileged by Giving our Service) Program over Spring Break.

A group of 10 students and two chaperones traveled to Kissimmee, Florida, to volunteer at Give Kids The World (GKTW) Village. 

At the village, the students worked multiple jobs, such as serving breakfast and dinner, scooping ice cream, operating amusement rides and coordinating parties.

“It was a great opportunity to spend my spring break giving joy to families who have so much stress on their shoulders,” said junior Alexa Schmidhamer.

GKTW Village is a place for Make-A-Wish children (or any child with a critical illness) to visit Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. The opportunity is free to families and is paid for and operated by donors, volunteers and roughly 150 employees. 

Kids and their families enjoy a week’s stay in a villa, where they experience things they may have never been able to before, such as Christmas, Halloween and even a surprise birthday party.

A group of 18 SFU students traveled to the Bahamas under the guidance of Rosemary Bertocci, chair of the Religious Studies Department. Many of the students on this trip were fourth-year occupational therapy students who were completing their level-one fieldwork under the supervision of licensed OTs and SFU alumnae Shelley Gearhart and Abby Mennett. 

Occupational Therapy Field Coordinator Jen Misiura helped prepare the OT students for the trip.

“The HUGS trips provide a unique opportunity for our students to apply what they have been learning in the classroom to help our brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Lisa Georgiana, Director of the Center for Community Engagement.

Another group of health science students traveled to Anconcito, a small fishing village in Ecuador. Students had the opportunity to practice the skills they learned in their physical examination labs and nursing classes.

“My favorite part of the trip was being able to participate in the diabetes clinic, where I was able to clinically take blood glucose (levels), blood pressure, look for diabetic changes in the eye, and check the lower extremities for diabetic retinopathy,” said Physician Assistant major Maddie Abriatis.

Activities for the group that visited Ecuador included working with the Nutrition Club that helps prevent malnutrition in children up to age 6, working with the Diabetes Club that provides weekly glucose monitoring for individuals with diabetes, educating the Chicos and Chicas Club about first aid, and running a community health fair specifically tailored to women’s health.

The HUGS Program is open to all majors and academic disciplines. For more information, contact Georgiana at