Immokalee students explore SWFL’s coastal habitat through Guadalupe Center’s annual Buddy Day

More than 125 second-graders from Immokalee paired up with volunteers to explore Southwest Florida’s unique coastal habitat in a fun-filled field trip to Marco Island.

Guadalupe Center’s 28th annual Buddy Day was held Feb. 17 at Hideaway Beach on Marco Island, where students rotated through interactive learning stations, crafts and outdoor games led by the YMCA of South Collier-Marco. Rangers from Big Cypress National Preserve provided environmental activities while the Marco Island Fire Department offered tours of its fire truck and led a fire safety program using a large inflatable house. Marco Island Police Department shared safety tips and gave students pocketsize hand sanitizer.

“Buddy Day is the first true school field trip for many of our students, so our goal is always to create a fun, memorable learning experience for each child,” said Bob Spano, vice president of programs. “Without our group of loyal volunteers, the ‘big buddies,’ Buddy Day would not have grown into such a wonderful experience for our students.”

Buddy Day began with a handful of mentors and volunteers, and now includes a growing number of communities and organizations that dispatch teams of volunteers to Marco Island. Participating communities in 2020 included Hideaway Beach Club, Verona Walk, Fiddler’s Creek, StoneCreek, Masters Reserve at Lely Resort and Esplanade Golf & Country Club. Volunteers from Pelican Bay Women’s Club, The League Club and Guadalupe Resale Shop also lent their assistance.

Transportation for this year’s Buddy Day event was once again sponsored by Seminole Casino Hotel.