Toni Fabbio Pagano, '74

"To cover the world with hugs" is the mission statement for Hugs for Kids a non for profit organization founded by Toni Fabbio Pagano . The blanket idea began in the summer of 2001. Under the guidance of her nieces from Phoenix, AZ, she made her first blanket for her son who was going off to college with 2 yards of fleece and a pair of scissors, another for his friend, and then more for her entire family. As a Eucharistic minister, she brought a blanket to a man with cancer she often visited. About 155 blankets later she called St. Louis Children’s Hospital to ask if there was a need for donated blankets. She explained that when you are wrapped in a blanket it felt as if someone was giving you a hug, thus the name "Hugs for Kids." What Toni planned as a onetime event for family and friends, making fleece blankets for hospitalized children is now going into its 9th year. "With each passing Hug’s workshop it becomes more and more evident that each hug is given twice. Often times when praying, cutting, and tying the fleece we think only of the child receiving the blanket, but the greatest gift is the one we receive when we give the hug away." Hug’s workshops are facilitated from grade schools to universities, from churches to synagogues and from corporate settings to private homes. Toni’s idea was to gather people of all ages and of many faiths to make the cozy blankets for children in need of a hug. Research has demonstrated the importance of touch in reducing pain and creating comfort in a hospital setting. Toni wrote, "The fleece blankets embrace those with hurts of the body, mind, heart, and soul." The blanket is accompanied by a prayer of blessing for the recipient and the assurance that it comes from the hands and heart of the one who made it. Hugs for Kids services St. Louis children’s Hospital, SSM Cardinal Glennon Hospital, Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Ranken-Jordan Rehabilitation Hospital, and Hawthorne Pediatric Mental Hospital of Eastern Missouri all in St. Louis.