Monday, Dec. 11, 2023 |
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LIHUE For families caring for critically ill children, sharing a hug and a smile with others goes a long way.
LIHUE — For families caring for critically ill children, sharing a hug and a smile with others goes a long way.
That is why Marilyn Allen, Deborah Gillikin, Julie Hagensen and Melissa Gregory established the first neighbor island chapter of HUGS, (Help, Understanding and Group Support), a nonprofit founded on Oahu dedicated to helping Hawaii families.
Through St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Allen has worked to chair a steering committee for HUGS that has focused on identifying Kauai families that are caring for children with life-threatening illnesses and in need of support.
“We are supporting Kauai families to improve their quality of life as they face the emotional and financial hardships of caring for a seriously-ill child,” said Allen. “We have currently identified 17 families on our island we hope to offer peer-to-peer support, emergency assistance and opportunities for them to come together and support one another.”
The first HUGS gathering for these families in need will take place on Saturday, and includes a train ride at Kilohana Plantation followed by a picnic lunch. The train ride was donated to HUGS by the purchaser of the silent-auction item at the “Who Dunnit” Fundraiser Gala hosted by St. Michael and All Angels last fall.
While the HUGS train ride is the first group gathering on Kauai, the HUGS program has already made an impact for some local families.
In August, four Kauai families flew to Oahu to attend a HUGS Celebration of Life service where they were able to connect with other families and honor the children who have passed away in 2019. At the services, the families planted a young Hawaiian koa tree in remembrance.
Last month, a donor also gifted a Kauai HUGS family with partial tuition at Kauai Community College to help with the financial struggle of caring for their child and continuing their education at the same time.
“A simple hug can say so much,” said Allen. “I know there are days where these families wake up and want nothing more than a hug and for someone to show that they care and are there to support. With this event we hope to share a day of hugs and smiles to let our local families in need know we care and are here for them.”
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