NEWMARKET - The town of Newmarket hopes to break a sweet world record. Most hugs in one hour.
The Guinness world record for the most hugs in one hour by a team of eight is at stake.
A group of community advocates is behind the ambitious Sunday, Oct. 27 Hugs4Hope event that aims to thrust Newmarket into the top ranks of the world hugging stage, as well as raise some money to support youth here and across the globe.
“The idea for this event started as a seed, and it has grown into something much bigger than originally envisioned because of an amazing group of community volunteers who want to do something good for our town,” organizer Nancy Bodi said.
Newmarket will gain glory with more than 2,450 hugs in 60 minutes.
“We need to hug at least 400 people — we’re calling on Newmarket residents and businesses to sign up and come out on Oct. 27,” Bodi appealed.
You can sign up as a hugger as an individual, or as part of a team here, which will help organizers prepare for the event, or simply come out on the day.
The eight hug team members are Jackie Playter, former Newmarket mayor Tony Van Bynen, Trinity United Church Rev. Linda Wheeler, Kathy Proudfoot, NewmarketToday editor Debora Kelly, and representing the two charity recipients, Una Wright, founder and executive director of Youth Speak Performance Charity, and Nancy Bodi and Hitesh Parmer, members of the Global Strides Charity board of directors.
“I chose people in Newmarket who are community advocates, people who regularly contribute to community causes,” said Bodi of the team of huggers.
“And who are good huggers,” she added with a smile.
Hugs4Hope takes place Sunday, Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. — huggers should arrive no later than 1:30 p.m. — at Trinity United Church, the beautiful 200-year-old church in the heart of Newmarket on Main Street at Park Avenue.
The event includes a celebration — because we’re going to do this, right, Newmarket? — from 1 to 4 pm., with food, music and entertainment on Main Street, which will be closed from Millard to Park.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor will be on hand to officially start the record-breaking attempt — which will carefully follow Guinness World Record requirements — and George St. Kitts will be the MC.
The event is “non-religious”, said Bodi, adding that Trinity United was quick to throw its support behind the event as a community partner by providing the location, as well as a team of volunteers and huggers, when approached by Bodi.
The Town of Newmarket is also supporting the event, as well as a group of community volunteers who have been meeting weekly for months, and sponsors that include the Rose Corporation, Treefrog, St. Kitts Music, Cachet Supper Club, and NewmarketToday/Village Media.
As well as breaking the Guinness world record, Hugs4Hope hopes to raise money and awareness for charities that support youth, here in York Region and across the globe in Africa.
Huggers aren’t required to donate to participate, Bodi noted.
Newmarket-based YouthSpeak Performance Charity has a team of more than 20 youth speakers, each with lived experiences with mental health, bullying, addiction and other challenges, who share their personal stories with other young people, said Wright.
“We encourage young people to reach out and ask for help, to build resilience within, and our speakers share coping strategies that they (have learned to use),” Wright said.
As a small charity, Wright said she is grateful for the opportunity to raise donations, which supports training and coaching of the youth speakers, as well as to create awareness of the impact of her organization across York Region.
The hugathon's tagline — “share the power of a hug” — aligns with some of the key messages that the YouthSpeak team shares in the region’s schools and workshops, Wright added.
“One of our key messages is around connecting with others — there’s a strong link there — and experiencing a sense of belonging and being included. A physical hug itself is good for your mental health and well-being, and building your sense of value as a human being, which sometimes can be a really tough go for some kids in our schools.”
Global Strides is an international charity striving for a better global future by investing in youth, said director Debra Weller, who co-founded the organization in 2010 after “a life-changing trip” to Kenya.
The organization raises funds to educate young people who live in an orphanage in Kianyaga, Kenya.
"Education is the way out for them," said Weller, who added about $1,500 will cover the cost of school for a year for a child.
"Hugs4Hope is very much about providing hope for a future for these children," Weller added. "With every hug given in Newmarket, we are sending a hug to a child in Africa."