BC dad honors only child’s memory by hugging strangers

Taraji Vanderpool (left) is seen in a family photo with parents, Viv (center) and Aaron.  (Aaron Vanderpool - photo credit)

Taraji Vanderpool (left) is seen in a family photo with parents, Viv (center) and Aaron. (Aaron Vanderpool – photo credit)

A grieving father invites people to join the ultimate group hug in memory of his departed child.

Aaron Vanderpool hosted an event titled “This Hug Is 20 Seconds” on Saturday afternoon in downtown Prince George, BC. As a show of love and compassion for one another, Vanderpool invites community members to gather and share hugs for 20 seconds.

The event is held in memory of Vanderpool’s only child, Taraji, who died unexpectedly last June at the age of 13.

The night before Taraji died, they gave Vanderpool “a big, long, perfect hug.” So when Vanderpool was looking for a way to honor Taraji and a friend mentioned hugs, Vanderpool addressed the idea on multiple levels.

“I know the therapeutic benefits of a hug for at least 20 seconds, so that’s how it all started,” Vanderpool told CBC host Carolina de Ryk Daybreak north.

Aaron Vanderpool

Aaron Vanderpool

“A hug that lasts at least 20 seconds actually syncs your heartbeat to the other person’s, and that’s a way of actually de-escalating a person. So if she’s feeling anxious or just not feeling them, you can actually try if they let you, try hugging her and you might actually see a benefit you weren’t expecting.

Vanderpool received help organizing the hug thon from the Prince George Pride Society, who helped gathering volunteers to be on site to distribute the hugs.

Vanderpool is hoping that 200 individual hugs will be shared during the event, which will take place across from Prince George’s City Hall from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. PT.

PG Pride’s Lori Kroeker calls the idea “brilliant” and says the society is happy to be a part of it.

“Of course we feel honored to be able to help and support,” said Kroeker. “That’s why we’re here — for everyone, not just if they’ve reached out to our board for help.”

“[Vanderpool] I just want to give as many hugs as possible and I think that’s beautiful.”

Dad was “blown away” by the answer.

Vanderpool describes Taraji as someone who would stand up for others if they were being bullied or were in a disadvantaged position.

“They were like a bulldog,” Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool adds that he was “blown away” by the response the event is receiving both face-to-face and online.

Aaron Vanderpool

Aaron Vanderpool

“Lots of love, a lot of people are saying that even though they can’t be in Prince George, at this point they’re going to hug their people around them for 20 seconds,” he said.

“I am blessed that people participate as much as they are.”


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