527 Free Hugs at AIDS Walk NYC

Dear Free Hugs,

A little over a year ago a friend of mine and I were discussing the Art of Giving a Hug with another friend of mine whom I’ll call Carter for the purpose of this blog. We were giving Carter a hard time because his hugs were pathetic. I mean the kind of hugs where you reach around the person and stand sort of close to them but still manage to not really be giving them a hug at all. There was no squeeze, no closeness, no sweet feeling passed between him and his hugee. Every now and again there might be a slight pat. So he took on hugging us. We wouldn’t let him off the hook either. Every time he saw us he had to give us a hug, a real hug and if at first he didn’t succeed we forced him to try, try again.

Fast forward a few months and Carter is a hug master. He hugs everyone and gives out really fantastic hugs. The kind of hugs you can just melt into and want to leave and come back just so you can get another hug. He’s got this hugging thing mastered and one night we go to the bars to hang out and he calls out another friend of ours for her hugs.

“T1, you rarely initiate hugs.” Carter proclaims and then proceeds to share his hugging story with T1 and invites her to take on initiating hugs. This conversation starts the conversation of us organizing and executing a Free Hugs campaign for which we made T-shirts and all wore our Free Hugs shirts on the same day at the same place for the same purpose.

Fast forward to today and we took an organized team called Team Free Hugs out to the AIDS Walk in NYC and we carried a sign that said Free Hugs and we handed out Free Hugs as we walked in support of GMHC and 40 other organizations across NYC that will benefit from the 6,214,768 dollars raised by walkers across New York City. Along the 6.4 miles that we walked we gave out Free Hugs and the experience was amazing. People were coming up to us and asking for hugs and we also did some aggressive offering of hugs and what I got out of it is this: not everyone experiences hugs the way I have been blessed to do so in my life.

I grew up in a hugging household. My mother hugs anyone who walks in our front door and everyone who walks out. My mother hugs us for no reason at all and she hugs us because she knows we need a hug. When my Grandmother was alive she hugged, my father hugs, my aunts, uncles and cousins hug, my siblings and I hug and my nephew is the greatest hugger of all. At any given time in my household growing up and still when I go home I can open my arms and receive an amazing hug, the kind that allows every external challenge to melt away and for me to be in the arms of someone who is nonverbally screaming I love you. I love you for who you are and I love you for who you aren’t. To me a hug means that what lies before us and what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within the hug shared between us.

Today I learned that is not so for everyone, not everyone grew up feeling their mother’s love or understanding that all problems could be fixed with a simple opening of the arms, the heart and the spirit. The connection of a hug is foreign to some and there were many that shared that with us today. Young boys who said “My mother stopped hugging me when she found out I was gay.” Older women who said, “I haven’t had a hug since before I found out I was HIV positive.” Entire groups of people who hugged us and brought over other members of their group to hug us as well. Our hugs also provoked other hugs, often we would walk away from a Free Hug giveaway leaving behind people hugging each other.

There’s something about a hug that  warms the spirit and sends joy out amongst us and today we gave out 527 hugs along our journey. Each of which meant something different to the person who received it and filled my heart a little more than when I started out on today’s journey.

Love Always,


As Christopher Robin said to Winnie the Pooh: “This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.

Give Sunny the Scoop!

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