Blue Bell Teen Embraces the Value of a Free Hug


A Blue Bell teen gets into the arms race of hugging and discovers that even ornery strangers appreciate her outreach.

Mitzvah Hero: Sarah Rebecca Cooper, 13, of Blue Bell, who embraced the value of a good hug as her Bat Mitzvah project at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park.

What It’s All About: “My father and I were watching YouTube looking for inspiration for my project — I didn’t want to do the same old thing others were doing — when this video came up about people giving free hugs,” says the Wissahickon Middle School student and daughter of Jeffrey and Susan Cooper. “It seemed like such a cool idea.” So she made a sign that said "Free Hugs" and went to the Montgomery Mall.

Not everyone, she discovered, was in the mood for a hug.

“People looked at me like I was weird.” 

But after one woman stepped out of the crowd to collect a hug, the arms race was on.

“I gave more than 100 hugs in about 2 to 3 hours,” says Sarah. Recipients ranged from age 3 to 70, many of them thanking her for the friendly embrace.

Not a One-Time Thing: Actually, this isn’t the first time Sarah thought of hugs as mitzvah-worthy. “I remember I once did it when I was little for fun,” she says, recalling that adventure as a 6-year-old.

It is also not her first venture into mitzvot: She’s been active in school clothing drives for the needy and spearheaded a kitty adoption program at the Blue Bell Country Club.

Good for Her: Sarah says her “Hug Project” “felt really great” and taught her a lesson about prejudging people.

Some of those she hugged seemed hesitant or ornery at first, but once they opened up in her arms "you realize how everyone is the same," she says. Regardless of how people look or act, they all have the same need for love and camaraderie.

“You make someone’s day by doing something like this."


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