Among the sea of students hustling on Turlington Plaza on Wednesday, UF student Aleena Martin held up a pink sign with the words, “FREE HUGS.”
“What’s that for?” asked a passerby, cashing in on his free hug.
“Just hugs,” smiled Martin, a 19-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences sophomore.
She said according to Kate Fletcher, her Principles of Family, Youth and Community Sciences professor, hugs are a form of therapy proven to relieve sickness, stress and anxiety.
“Hugging can be healing,” she said. “It relieves stress and tension.”
Each semester, Fletcher offers her students the opportunity for extra credit if they hug students, Martin said. The group hugged about 25 people in an hour.
“The goal is really just to brighten someone’s day and spread the love,” said Amy O’Neal, a UF psychology junior who helped coordinate the event.
As other students wiped sweat from their foreheads, Fletcher’s students offered hugs.
“Some people want a free hug,” said Angela Locarno, a 19-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences sophomore.
“They stop, and say, ‘Yeah, I could use that.’”
UF wildlife ecology and conservation sophomore Michaela Oglesby participated in the event and watched people take selfies and Snapchats in “group hugs” on Turlington.
Jenna Palgut, a UF environmental engineering junior, asked for a hug.
“It’s just nice to see strangers love on people,” the 20-year-old said.
Aleena Martin (right), a 19-year-old UF family youth and community sciences sophomore, gives a “Free Hug” to Tanuj Amalean, a 19-year-old UF mechanical engineering sophomore, in Turlington Plaza Sept. 8, 2015. Martin was with her Intro to Family, Youth and Community Sciences class giving free hugs as part of an extra-credit assignment. “We are encouraged to give healing through hugs,” she said.