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Baby, you should go and love yourself: Love and Support Day teaches students about self-worth and self-help

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Two male students slowly approached Allysa Sirianni noticing her sign that said “Free Hugs” and the bouquet of flowers in her hand.

“Can I have a flower?” one asked cautiously, unsure of Sirianni’s reaction.

“Of course,” Sirianni said. “You can have a hug too.”

The two embraced briefly and the students left with their days perhaps a little brighter.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, students participating as interns in Wellness Education Services or taking UBE 101 gave out flowers and free hugs in the Student Union Thursday for Love and Support Day, which is centered around loving oneself, taking care of oneself and helping others.

Students had varying reactions to their peers who handed out flowers. While some were excited about the flowers, others avoided the gaze of students participating and quickly walked past.

Sirianni, a sophomore business major, wanted to help spread the love Thursday.

“It brightens my day and it brightens their day, which is really nice,” Sirianni said. “It’s also a great way to interact with other students that I wouldn’t normally see.”

Aaron Maracle, the assistant violence protection specialist, has helped organize the event for the last 10 years.

He said the idea came to him and a group of colleagues while out at a conference.

“We were at a conference in Denver and saw a guy on the street holding up a sign that said ‘Free Hugs,’” Maracle said. “We thought the idea was interesting and wanted to implement it in the school with students.”

Maracle said that the concept is built around consent – those holding signs ask students if they want a hug and a flower, then give the student the chance to respond with what they’re most comfortable with. He hopes that by encouraging consent in hugging, it will also lead to asking consent for other things.

Students were allowed to participate at varying levels depending on how comfortable they are – if students don’t want to be “huggers” there are plenty of other jobs for them to do.

“Students can help run some of the other tables we have, set up for the event or help to answer questions about the process,” Maracle said. “We want everyone to be able to participate but also to be comfortable.”

The event is annual so the blueprints to organize it are already there, but the details are planned a couple of weeks in advance.

In addition to handing out flowers, the day involves information about upcoming events like Walk a Mile in her Shoes. There are also have booths to register to vote, a board with information about healthy and unhealthy relationships and therapy dogs to play with in the Student Union rooms.

Olivia Lewis, a second-year social work graduate student, participated in the event for the first time as an intern in Wellness Education Services. 

“I feel like in the middle of a cold semester, people forget to take care of themselves,” Lewis said.

With everyone’s favorite hallmark holiday approaching on Sunday, Thursday served as a reminder to care about not only the people around you, but to care about yourself.

Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com.


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