The HUGS mission: To strengthen Hawaii's families and improve their quality of life as they face the emotional and financial hardships of caring for a seriously ill child.


HUGS was founded in 1982 by a small group of volunteers at Unity Church on Oahu who recognized the many challenges and stressors that families with seriously ill children face. They noticed families who were constantly challenged financially, spiritually, emotionally, and by many other issues related to their child's condition. They felt families shouldn't have to go through this journey alone.

They envisioned an organization that would provide support, compassion and aloha to these families. Initially called the "Center," it was renamed the Young People's Support Center before becoming officially known as HUGS (Help, Understanding & Group Support) in 1989. A family came up with the acronym, HUGS, while receiving support for their son, who had a cancerous tumor. "When your child is diagnosed with having a terminal illness, sometimes the only thing even a doctor can do is give you a hug," said Pleaman Shaver. "There are days when I wake up wanting nothing more or less than a big hug. It says so much -- I care, I hurt with you, hang in there."

Over the years, HUGS has grown to meet the emotional and financial needs of more families from across the state, helping them cope with the effects of a childhood illness. HUGS serves Hawaii children, ages birth to 21 years, who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that ranges from cancer, cardiac issues, and liver and kidney ailments, to chromosomal defects.