When a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it impacts each family member in significant and very different ways.

  • Emotionally – Fear, uncertainty, sadness, and anxiety are the immediate emotions that members of the family experience, compounded by the additional stress that occurs with mounting medical bills while also handling the responsibilities of daily life such as work, school and home.

  • Physically – The experience of caring for a seriously ill child is taxing and stressful.

  • Financially – Parents often have to take time off from work or quit their job to be with their child in the hospital, resulting in a substantial loss of income. Medical bills can range from thousands to millions of dollars which health insurance may not cover.

  • Family Life – A childhood illness impacts the entire family, sometimes putting a strain on family relationships. Individual family members can suffer from depression, anxiety and react with anger.

HUGS supports the entire family when their child has a serious illness. We offer a range of comprehensive programs and services to lessen the emotional and financial hardships that arise. Programs are provided at no cost to qualified families.


Monthly and emergency respite CARE

HUGS provides parents and caregivers the opportunity for much needed personal time away from the intense demands of caring for a seriously ill child. Free child care, for children ages 6 months to 12 years, is offered, where they have a lot of fun and attention, paired with a buddy in a safe, supportive environment, so that parents have time for themselves to do whatever they wish. HUGS also offers emergency respite assessed on a case-by-case basis based on need and staffing. 

"Respite gives my husband and me a much needed break for a few hours. It allows us to work on the foundation of our family, which is us, the parents. Having a strong family foundation is so important when going through this unpredictable journey."
— HUGS Mom, Stephanie Kozuma

"The HUGS house is my favorite place because it's fun."
— HUGS Keiki, Zach, age 10


Monthly Family Events

Monthly family dinners bring families together, allowing parents time to relax, share information and provide support and fellowship to one another in a caring and comfortable environment, while kids play to their heart's content. Parents say one of the best things about HUGS is meeting other families who are in similar situations and being able to talk with others who understand the challenges of caring for a seriously ill child. 

11.18.17 for print-73 Family Dinner reduced.jpg


Annual Special Events

Surf4HUGS, organized by The Thomas Family and with community support, is a fun, annual event in Waikiki for HUGS children and families. Kids enjoy a day in the ocean, where the waves wash their cares and stressors away. For some, it's the first time on a surfboard, and they're hooked. 

A moving Celebration of Life is held every year in a serene setting to honor and remember HUGS children who have passed away. In 2017, Sunset Ranch Hawaii, in partnership with Waimea Valley Park, dedicated a grove of young Hawaiian koa trees to the children of HUGS. Each tree is a living legacy, marked with a plaque. 

HUGS Help, Understanding & Group Support


Peer Support Groups

Peer support gatherings provide a non-judgmental environment for specific peer groups. These fun, focused activities allow participants to freely share feelings while supporting each other within a group that understands the experiences and challenges they all face. Held monthly, Mom's Night may include dinner and a movie or a spa night while Dad's Night may include dinner and a movie, bowling, or a sports game.

"The most important thing about Mom’s Night is the chance to relax, talk and get support on the issues we face every day as moms of sick children. Being able to have discussions with 4 other moms who had been there—on care, matters of medication, what to expect, and how to negotiate our new life—was so important and improved the care of my own daughter. It’s hard to talk to other people who are not going through the same things."
— HUGS Mom, Wendy


Siblings, too, need support. Brothers and sisters sometimes feel "forgotten" when all of the focus and attention are placed on the seriously ill child. HUGS provides an annual, three-day siblings-only camp to help them express their feelings, increase their self-esteem, and make new friends with other siblings who are facing similar struggles. SibCamp engages siblings, ages 7-17 years, through meaningful activities as well as fun, recreational activities and all the adventure that camp provides. They often can't wait until the next year!

HUGS coordinates about 50 activities and events for HUGS children and families each year. Families feel supported, knowing they are not alone.


HUGS' new case management program, Ho'okele, which means to navigate, provides families with an extra level of support. Our case manager helps families by assessing their personal situation and providing information and referrals and connecting them to community resources they need. These may include financial assistance with emergency rental or utility payments, job placement/search programs, child care, and individual and family counseling. HUGS researches local resources, facilitates connections with resources and follows up with families to ensure their needs are satisfied.

Hospital Outreach

HUGS staff and trained volunteers make regular visits to children and their families in local hospitals. These visits help children cope with their fears, anxieties and feelings of boredom associated with hospitalization. As part of the outreach, HUGS offers:

  • Silver Lining Toy Chest – New toys and gift cards are given to children undergoing painful treatments such as a spinal tap or bone marrow aspirations.

  • Bedside Play (formerly known as Laughter Wagon) – Trained volunteers engage children, teens and siblings with interactive games and activities that help to reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Amenity Kits filled with basic hygiene items for use during an extended hospital stay.


Airfare Assistance

Recognizing the financial challenges that families with seriously ill children face and that needed medical treatment is not always available in Hawaii, HUGS provides emergency airfare assistance. This enables family members to be together during a critical time when a child needs life-saving medical treatment, such as an organ transplant or cardiac surgery, on the mainland. Emergency airfare is also available for neighbor island families during a child's extended hospitalization on Oahu when medical services are not available in their community. Donations of HawaiianMiles from the community help make this possible. 


Kokua Kupboard

Since 1985, HUGS has partnered with the Hawaii Foodbank to provide non-perishable food to needy HUGS families. Donations from the community also help stock our cupboards. 


Sammy's Keiki Aloha Fund

With support from the Hagar Family Foundation, HUGS provides a one-time stipend for daily living expenses for neighbor island families when their child is hospitalized on Oahu.


Funeral Assistance

HUGS provides financial assistance to families to help cover funeral expenses following the loss of their child.