As a never-ending hugger, I'm embracing the idea of a Hug-A-Thon as a way to raise money for the Samaritans Southcoast, because they both have a lot in common.

"Hugs are a powerful reminder that someone cares," said Darcy Lee, Executive Director of Samaritans Southcoast. "The idea of our Second Annual Hug-A-Thon works well with what we do at Samaritans Southcoast, because like hugs, we also make people feel better."

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and on the heels of a global pandemic and a prolonged period of isolation for many, it's as important as ever to recognize those who are hurting.

"We couldn't think of a better way to get behind prevention and increase awareness than with hugs," Lee said. Last year was the Samaritans' first time doing a Hug-A-Thon featuring virtual hugs, and they raised $17,000. "This year, we intend to raise over $20,000, as we kick off a month of fundraising."

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It's easy to participate. "We need everyone to participate by giving a hug for $5," Lee said. "We have different incentive levels, where the contributor may receive a bracelet, key chain, tote bag or t-shirt."

It's also very easy to give. "Someone will make a donation on the Samaritans Fundly page. Then click 'Post to Facebook' and share the Hug-A-Thon meme to all your social media, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn," Lee said.

it's a known fact that Samaritans Southcoast has helped save lives of people who needed to know that someone cared about them and would just listen to them.

"Last year, we answered more than 14,000 calls on the hotline," Lee said. "The people who gave made it possible for our services to remain free to anyone of any age."

The staff of 35 volunteers are specially trained to be befrienders. "Befriending is not being someone's friend, it's not being a counselor, it's not being a therapist, it's not giving advice, it's not sharing opinions," Lee said. "It is listening 90 percent of the time and speaking 10 percent of the time."

The donations go towards services like the hotline and Kare Calls, made to senior citizens who otherwise would be lonely and isolated.

"We kick it off on September 1st, and every gift, no matter how big or small, will help make a difference in the people we serve," said Lee, who will join me Monday, Aug. 30 at 9 a.m. to tell us more about preventing suicide deaths.

We need to support the Samaritans. They have cared for so many in our community. Now is the time to share the love and give a hug.

For more information about participating in the Samaritans Southcoast Hug-A-Thon, please visit its Fundly page, the Samaritans Southcoast Facebook page, or Samaritans Southcoast website.

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