Supporting Families With Seriously Ill Keiki

By Julie Ho, director of development, HUGS

HUGS (Help, Understanding and Group Support) is a local organization that serves more than 200 families with children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness each year. The organization is dedicated to providing support, compassion and other services to keep families with seriously ill children together, along with enhancing the quality of life for these children and their families. HUGS fits in between medical care and family support systems offering peer support, respite and emergency medical airfare.


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Julie Ho

HUGS was founded in 1982 after a group of volunteers recognized the many challenges and stressors that families with seriously ill children face. When a child is diagnosed with an illness, not only does it affect the child, but it also affects the family as a whole. HUGS continues to grow in family numbers and services each year, and it stands strong in its commitment that no family who qualifies will ever be turned away.

The holistic HUGS approach aims to provide support to all family members. Siblings particularly can be impacted emotionally, and many of them become an integral part of the HUGS family. Ben Likio, 14, became an amazing volunteer with HUGS when his sibling was ill. He has volunteered at Sib Camp, a camp for siblings volunteers, and as office support. He is an empathetic young man who has dedicated his time and talents to help children going through similar challenges that he has experienced as a sibling of a seriously ill child.

All the services HUGS provides are done without any state or federal contracts. HUGS relies heavily on volunteers like Ben and community support to fund its programs and services. Each year an annual HUGS Love Gala is held to raise a large portion of these funds.

This year, the gala will be held Oct. 5 from 5 to 10 p.m. at The Modern Honolulu. It is a night to honor HUGS families, volunteers, service groups and corporate sponsors while raising funds to support its services for many years to come. This year, Ben will be receiving the Super Teen Volunteer Award at the annual HUGS Love Gala.

For more information about HUGS or to purchase tickets for the annual HUGS Love Gala, please visit