Guadalupe Center second-graders rejoin Hideaway Beach volunteers on Marco Island after Hurricane Ian

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The Guadalupe Center CREDIT: WINK News)

A 32-year Marco Island tradition, “Buddy Day,” which brings hundreds of Immokalee elementary school students to the island for a day of fun and learning with adult mentors is resuming in person after several years of virtual-only sessions after the pandemic.

The annual Buddy Day on Hideaway Beach pairs second-graders in the nonprofit Guadalupe Center’s Early Childhood Education Program with adult volunteers for a day of outdoor learning, arts and crafts, environmental education and more. 

Dawn Montecalvo, president and CEO of the Guadalupe Center said for many of these students, this is a once in a lifetime experience.

“Every child has their own unique memory,” she said. “And I think that’s what makes us all want to keep doing this because we’re making an impact on a child that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

One of those students was Alejandro Loredo. A former “little buddy” almost 10 years ago, now tutor corps student at the center.

He said attending this year’s event now as a high school student brings back those memories that inspired him to be where he is in life now: on his way to college with a full ride scholarship.

“On the way here, like the kids were looking out the window seeing the beach for the first time,” said Loredo. “It’s an amazing feeling of like, ‘Wow, that was us back then.’ Looking back at it, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ I’m excited for what the future has to hold for me.”

Participating organizations include Kids2Camp, the YMCA of Collier County, Marco Island Fire Department, Marco Island Shell Club, Seminole Casino Immokalee, which provides buses for transportation and Big Cypress National Preserve, whose representatives will lead a birding expedition.

The event was expected to have drawn nearly 200 students to the Hideaway Beach Club at 250 South Beach Drive in Marco Island, where activities ran from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Monday.

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