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Photo by: Sarah Wilson - Morgan Kennedy changed her life with hula hooping, and turned it into a business.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2014 4 years ago

Rollins student finds happiness hula hooping

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Student starts hula hoop biz
by: Brittni Larson

When Morgan Kennedy was chosen to participate in a work hula hooping contest, she had no idea a toy would completely change her life. She wasn’t very good at keeping the hoop swinging around her hips that day, and within a few swooshes it had tumbled down to the ground. Safe to say she wasn’t the winner, she laughed, but she was surprised to feel a certain kind of carefree happiness she hadn’t felt in a long time.

Kennedy had recently gone through something tragic in her life, and was left a single mom living on her own for the first time. She felt alone and life seemed scary every day.

“I felt like my life was broken,” she said.

Her anxiety and depression began to float away with every sway of her hips as she decided to pick up the hula-hoop again. She’d spend hours in her kitchen teaching herself to hula hoop – she vowed to not watch a single YouTube tutorial video until she had the basics mastered on her own. It was an escape, a way to focus on something positive.

“Hooping helped me get out of depression,” she said. “Whenever you’re hula hooping and you’re in your flow, you’re creating endorphins, which make you happy.”

She’d hula on the Rollins College grassy areas before a tough test to settle her nerves, she left hula hoops strategically placed around her home just in case she got bored, and she couldn’t help but talk excitedly about hula hooping at her job as an Orlando Health systems trainer.

After some time with average store-bought hula hoops, she realized she needed something sturdier for hoop dancing and working out, so she figured out how to make her own. Friends got interested and she made hoops for them, she found places to teach hula hooping, and the fun toy became more than just a hobby – her business Happy Hula Hoops was born.

She sells workout hula hoops for about $25, though prices range for the custom hoops she can create, and through her company she does hula hoop performances for parties and teaches hooping lessons. She also loves to teach hula hooping workout classes.

“It’s all about sharing my art with people,” Kennedy said. “I want to share what made me so happy, what brought me out of the darkness, with other people.”

Her hula workout classes range in intensity and can go from never stop, boot-camp style to what she teaches her client Evelyn Thomas Williams at her home in Maitland each Tuesday evening. Thomas Williams is on oxygen and sometimes uses a wheelchair, and wanted a low-impact exercise routine that would get her moving and having fun. She’s a child of the ’50s, when all there was to do was hula-hoop all day – it was her love back then. She can’t wait to get good enough to hold out her arms and let the hoop really get swinging off her hips.

“It’s not freeing yet, but I’m looking forward to it being freeing,” she said.

Kennedy also does hula hoop performing, and has been onstage entertainment with local favorite band Beebs and Her Money Makers, but doesn’t like the spotlight as much as watching others light up as they grasp a basic skill or nail a trick. In spite of that, she’s got a talent for performing and really dancing with the hula hoop. Her hands flow elegantly and her body grooves right around the hoop. Her toes point out with a dancer’s grace and it’s amazing to see how high she can throw the hoop and then catch in it a spin.

“It’s a form of expression,” she said. “I like to put my heart into it … there’s something that lights a flame inside of me that makes me very passionate about hula hooping, it just makes me smile.”

Ben Smith, another hula hoop lover and customer of Kennedy’s, agreed.

“It’s fun, you kind of exceed your own expectations … it really is an art with a lot more depth,” he said. “It’s a legitimate style of dancing.”

Kennedy wants to continue to share her love of hula hooping with others, because you can’t underestimate what something so small can do for your life.

“I just never thought I’d have so much joy and happiness from a little toy,” she said. “It changed my life.”

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