SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Eight students and one advisor from the University of Illinois Springfield are heading to Florida for spring break, but they aren’t going for a typical vacation.

The group is taking an Alternative Spring Break (ABS) trip to help rebuild after Hurricane Ian. The group will leave for Fort Myers on Saturday and return a week later.

“We knew that Florida was hit hard this year by Hurricane Ian, and we wanted to use our spring break to help out as people and organizations recover,” said Amanda Jones, ASB student president. “We chose Fort Myers because they were one of the hardest hit places by the hurricane and are in need of assistance.”

The group plans to clear trails at a nature center, sort donations at a food bank and Salvation Army location and assist with pop-up needs at the Bonita Garden Center.

“By helping the two nature centers after the hurricane, we play a small part in the extensive eco-restoration efforts happening in the area right now,” Jones said. “There are many people in the area who were also financially devastated by the storms, so assisting food pantries sort donations is an important piece of helping reduce food insecurity for these people.”

Disaster relief and eco-restoration are just two of the charitable things the ABS program at UIS has done in their 14 years of traveling. Since their first trip to South Dakota in 2008 to help Habitat for Humanity, ABS has traveled to Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. to help with those missions and others like early childhood education programs.

Jones said she wanted to participate in ABS because it allows a fun-filled spring break that also makes a difference by helping a community in need.

“In my experience, and many other students can say the same, ASB is far more fulfilling than the typical vacation, as we get to have fun, create bonds with the team and most importantly leave the community we went to knowing that we made a positive impact,’ Jones said.