Miami VA Healthcare System
Human Hug Project brings healing hugs to Miami VA
Hugs can be healing. They can help people relieve stress, feel safe and connect with others. There were lots of free hugs and smiles to go around on Thursday when the Human Hug Project visited the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center in Miami.
U.S. Marine Corps Veterans Ian Michael and Gino Greganti, who served in the military together, started the Human Hug project—which consists of Michael, Gino Greganti and his wife Erin Greganti, their longtime friend Bright Ryan, and a dog named Cowboy—in early 2015 as a way to use their own experiences to help other Veterans.
“A hug not only helps me in my healing process, it helps others in theirs,” Gino Greganti said. “I started doing this after I got a hug from a VA nurse that changed my life. I want to try to give some of that back to my brothers and sisters. People just need a hug sometimes.”
The group made its first stop at the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in Nashville in 2015 and hopes to bring hugs to 140 VA medical facilities. The Miami VA was the group's 33rd stop. Veterans and employees said the visit was a good experience.
“After spending time with the Human Hug Project giving hugs to our Veterans, staff and visitors, I can attest that hugs made me and our Veterans feel better,” said Carlos Julemiste, Voluntary Service specialist and U.S. Army Veteran. “This is hands down the best medicine you can get. It is said that 10 hugs a day can contribute to good health. When you get a hug, the results are instantaneous and can be felt immediately. Thank you, Human Hug Project.”
While giving free hugs to other Veterans allows Gino Greganti and Michael to help other Veterans and themselves, the visits also allow them to listen to and share military stories.
“It’s awesome to hear other Veterans share their incredible stories,” Gino Greganti said. “When we hug others, we get to hear other Veterans tell their stories while being there for one another.”