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 – 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 provides services at no cost to qualified families.
Monthly and emergency respite
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 childcare is offered in a safe and supportive environment so that parents have time away 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 allow 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.
Annual Special Events
Surf4HUGS, organized by The Thomas Family, is a fun, annual event for HUGS children and families, where the waves wash their cares and stressors away for one day to enjoy surfing.
A moving Celebration of Life is held every year in a serene setting to honor and remember HUGS children who have passed. 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.
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 one another 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 special workshops, day camps and an annual, three-day siblings-only camp to help them express their feelings, increase their self-esteem, and build friendships with other siblings who are facing similar struggles. SibCamp engages siblings, ages 7-16 years, through meaningful activities as well as fun, recreational activities. They often can't wait until next year!
HUGS coordinates about 50 activities and events for HUGS children and families each year.
HUGS staff and trained volunteers make regular visits to children and their families in local hospitals. 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.
Emergency airfare assistance is provided to family members when a child from a neighbor island needs medical treatment on Oahu or on the mainland due to the lack of services back home. Donations of HawaiianMilies from the community make it possible for family members to visit during a child's hospitalization away from home.
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.
HUGS provides financial assistance to families to help cover funeral expenses following the loss of their child.