The Circle of Life
In the summer of 1958, more than 25 million Hula Hoops sold to plastic-happy Americans. The Hula Hoop defined a generation of post-pubescent Baby Boomers, teaching them to grind their hips and effectively yielding a subsequent "Gen Y" and a generous bank of potential CultureMap readers.
Now, the tropical-tinged toy is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the backing of such disparate figures as Real Housewives of New York's Bethenny Frankel, German performance artist Christian Jankowski, anti-obesity advocate Michelle Obama, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Sufjan Stevens' backup dancers and Houston Free Press Summer Fest participants. Nowhere is the trend more evident than at Houston's own Discovery Green, where the world's largest Hula Hoop class is held on the Fondren Performance Space lawn on Sunday mornings.
The forever-fad is adding a charitable edge with the arrival of the Care2Spin Hula Hoop Challenge. The hoopathon will attempt to attract over 3,100 movers and shakers to Discovery Green on Aug. 28 to raise money for Easter Seals Greater Houston, an organization that helps children and adults living with disabilities. That lofty 3,100 figure isn't as arbitrary as it looks, as it would break the current Guinness World Record for the number of Hula Hoopers hooping in unison at a single venue.
There is a suggested $100 donation for participants to get their hoop on at Discovery Green to support Easter Seals' myriad programs.
"Because of federal and state budget cuts, Easter Seals is losing between $1 and $1.2 million in funding," says Jenny Selber, who represents the non-profit. She tells CultureMap that one in six Easter Seals clients will lose services as a result of the financial crunch.
The money generated at the Hula Hoop Challenge will benefit the organization's broad spectrum of services that aid disabled persons from infancy through adulthood. The retro Hula Hoop toy is also helping Easter Seals look to the future by funding iPads that will give children a means to communicate.
"These iPads are giving speech to kids with conditions like cerebral palsy," Selber says. "They understand language, and now they're able to communicate through technology."