Building relationships and leadership skills through community service.
Shorewood Junior HUGS began in 2011 with four High School senior girls wishing to use their talents to teach a group of down syndrome girls to dance. What started as a summer program continued for over a year, teaching the girls confidence and skills to dance on a big stage at several dance competitions. The following year one home schooled senior used her talents as a pianist to play piano for seniors at a local assisted living community. The residents embraced her talent and she brightened their day.
In 2016 Molly Babyak took over the program with the assistance of another HUGS member, Crystil Carrie. Together they grew the Junior HUGS program from four friends wishing to complete community service projects, to 30 enthusiastic teens, embracing the opportunity to serve others in the Chicagoland region.
Over the past year the girls have volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House, Feed my Starving Children, Morning Star Mission, Northern Illinois food bank and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. In addition, they made blankets for Will County Children's Advocacy Center, painted kindness rocks to place around town, sent care packages to service members, created hand-made cards for local hospitals and retirement homes, as well helping at HUGS events during the year. The Junior HUGS program has given back over 2000 hours of community service in the past four years.