Sharing the virtual hugs

Last week, we invited everyone to share stories about the hugs you wish you could give but cannot because of the pandemic. The Virtual Hug Challenge, which launched Thursday on National Hugging Day, is one way we’re hoping to spread love and build connections within our community.

The stories you’ve shared so far got us thinking back to the importance of hugs in our lives, specifically our involvement with the Special Olympics.

We grew up in a family of five kids (Jim is the oldest, and Chris the youngest). Our middle sibling, Kevin, has a developmental disability and was a large part of the inspiration for Smile Farms, which provides meaningful work opportunities for adults with disabilities at urban gardens, farms and greenhouses.

When we were younger, our family become heavily involved in the Special Olympics, which was created in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Kevin participated throughout the year in various track-and-field and basketball competitions and always attended the New York state games every June.

What most impressed us was the spirit of everyone involved – the volunteers, organizers, athletes and families – and the hugs that were freely given at every competition. One group of volunteers was always assigned to the finish line, and their job was to congratulate athletes as they crossed the finish line, showering them with hugs and praise. These hugs were almost always met with tears of joy.

Your Hug Memories

We weren’t the only ones to be reminded of the value of hugs. One community member, Liam, said he and his three young adult cousins, made a communications plan to give their grandparents virtual hugs regularly through FaceTime. The four cousins all live near their grandparents, and they used to just “pop in.” That has not been possible lately, so they schedule regular video calls to make sure their grandparents feel their virtual love.

Hugs — real or virtual — aren’t just good for the people receiving them. They make the sender feel great, too. We want to help you deliver a virtual hug. To whom do you want to send a virtual hug and why? Share a hug with those you miss and join our #virtualhugchallenge.

Why Hugs are Important

Hugs are an important way to connect. Our friend, Dr. George Everly, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says that connection is the single best predictor of resilience because it multiplies happiness and divides sadness.

So let’s keep the virtual hugs coming! We have some great virtual hugs to share below that remind us there truly are #NoLimitsOnLove.

A (virtual) hug to YOU,

Chris & Jim

Written by our Founder and CEO, our Celebrations Pulse Sunday Letters aim to engage with our community. From sharing stories to welcoming your ideas, we want to help you to express, connect, and celebrate the important people in your life.


Jim McCann is the founder, CEO, and chairman of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. as well as a business leader, author, and philanthropist with a passion for helping people deliver smiles. Devoted to helping others, he also founded Smile Farms, a 501(c)3 organization that provides meaningful jobs in agricultural settings to young adults and adults with developmental disabilities.

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