HUG Life: Building Hope One LEGO Brick at a Timeby Bernice Mar on September 4, 2019
There once was an elderly woman named Jackie who cared for young patients at an Atlanta hospital. Wearing a fairy godmother costume, she read to them and transported them to an imaginary world. A small group of friends and family who also served at the hospital, watched as she transformed lives through loving service. Inspired by that encounter, the nonprofit organization Hope Laugh Play (HLP) was founded in Atlanta in 2012.
Easing Life Challenges Through Creativity
HLP was established to ease the hardship for children and their families coping with health and life challenges. Using creativity, HLP has become a master builder of hope, hosting “LEGO Build” events at local hospitals, camps, and schools. Last year, board members Mark Lewis, his wife, Cathy, and Christina Dorfman introduced the “LEGO Build” program to Charlotte at Levine Children’s Hospital.
Each monthly “LEGO Build” event serves 30-50 children and is equipped with a large inventory of new LEGO sets and 5-6 volunteers. Every child personally chooses his/her LEGO set from a vast assortment of kits – a very important aspect the experience. This sweet dose of choice and control goes a long way to ease an otherwise difficult situation that is knee-deep in mandatory treatment routines and unrelenting regiment.
For children who are unable to join the events in person, a LEGO kit is delivered to their rooms by a family member or caregiver. At the end of the event, every child is given a convenient drawstring bag to store their LEGO pieces. The set is theirs to keep so they can play again and again. Giving children some creative relief, also provides some welcome R & R time to parents and caretakers.
Earlier this year, Charlotte Is Creative awarded a HUG micro-grant to HLP for their work in Charlotte. The LEGO sets used for the events cost about $15-$25; and can be completed within 45 minutes – 2 hours. The funds from HUG enabled HLP to reach an additional 15 children.
A Fun and Rewarding Experience for All Involved
According to HLP, making a direct impact is contagious and fun. Tangible outcomes are visible at every event: A hard-won smile. The pride that exudes from an innocent child’s face. The radiance of wonder and awe. Tears of relief. A clumsy hug.
They see that where there is laughter and play, positive energy and magic follow.
Local businesses are also joining the LEGO “construction” crew. Red Ventures (RV) invited HLP to participate in their second annual Community Involvement Fair this year. As part of the festivities over a lunch hour, passionate RV employees learned about HLP and bravely trudged barefoot through the “Walk of Fire” – a colorful trail of plastic bricks in an array of shapes and sizes!
So Many Ways to Get Involved and Stay Connected
Want to support these master builders of hope? The folks at HLP make it easy and fast for organizations, adults, and children to contribute time, money and LEGOs! Click here for details about how to get involved or support their work with children.
Advice from Mark & Christina About Applying Creative Passions for Good
1) Don’t do more than you can do. Stay grounded. It’s better to do three things great than ten things poorly.
2) Know your mission and follow it. At the same time, be flexible in going where there is need – without rigid guard rails. This is a delicate balancing act.
HOW CAN I GET A HUG?
HUGs are $250 micro-grants awarded to individuals or organizations (for-profit or nonprofit) working on creative initiatives that are open to the public in the Charlotte area. HUGs are “strings-free” and are intended to remove a small financial obstacle holding a project or a person back from realizing the potential of their idea. HUGgees (HUG grant recipients) are also eligible to participate in special training events and seminars throughout the year. Since 2017, more than 150 HUG micro-grants have been awarded in Charlotte. To apply for a HUG, visit www.HUGGrant.com.