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Local woman wraps her arms around a mission of love
by Sarah Cooper
Jul 22, 2008 | 1655 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy/Michelle Nichols - Monday’s National Hug Your Kids Day drew 100 people to an event in Wingfield Park.
Courtesy/Michelle Nichols - Monday’s National Hug Your Kids Day drew 100 people to an event in Wingfield Park.
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Courtesy/Michelle Nichols - Sparks City Council and staff commemorate National Hug Your Kids Day at Monday’s meeting with founder Michelle Nichols.
Courtesy/Michelle Nichols - Sparks City Council and staff commemorate National Hug Your Kids Day at Monday’s meeting with founder Michelle Nichols.
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Michelle Nichols wrapped one arm around Mayor Geno Martini Monday after accepting the city’s official proclamation for National Hug Your Kids day.

The advocate for hugging thanked the council for the award and after a quick photo, was off to coordinate “the biggest little hug” at Wingfield Park in Reno.

“I want to change the world’s thinking,” Nichols said. “Hug your kids every day.”

The story of National Hug Your Kids day began 10 years ago Monday, when Nichols’s son Mark died of a brain tumor. He was 8 years old.

Since then, the mother of three has walked away from 25 years in the sales world, a syndicated column in Business Week, a professional speaking career and four of her own companies to promote family unity. Recently, Nichols applied to have the day included in Chase’s Calendar of Events, a reference book of holidays published by McGraw Hill Co.

“We run out the door to our 8 a.m. meetings and we blow past our families,” Nichols said. “We just want people to spend some time with their kids.”

On Monday, groups in 14 cities from Tampa, Fla., to Los Angeles gathered to hug their families. The event at Wingfield Park in Reno drew about 100 people, Nichols said, who reached out for their loved ones while a giant crane took an aerial picture of the giant hugging event.

According to Nichols, the event was a test run for a larger project. She hopes to set the Guinness World Record for the most parents hugging their kids at one time. And she hopes to do it on National Hug Your Kids day.

Since she began her work in earnest less than one year ago, Nichols has published a book and advertised hugs for kids on billboards across the United States.

Her book took the message about hugging to a new dimension as Nichols began to decry the pursuit of a work-life balance.

“What we keep doing as working parents is asking the wrong question,” Nichols said. “Frankly the work life balance shouldn’t be equal.”

Growing from a hug, her mantra has become, “Put family first and work a close second.”

“I am the anti work-life balance advocate,” she said, adding that she believes family is more important than working.

As she looks to the future of the day that she founded, Nichols says she will continue to hold events and raise awareness of the importance of family bonding.

Her work has even captured the attention of former Donald Trump aide Carolyn Kepcher, who has asked Nichols to join her company as a contributor.

Kepcher’s most recent business enterprise is Caolyn and Co., an online networking venture that is devoted to helping women achieve balance between their professional and family lives.

At the end of the week Nichols will be catching a plane for events in Texas, where she will again promote a focus on the family and encourage parents to hug their children.

“Put it on the top of your to-do list,” Nichols said. “Then it always gets done and even if your day went to heck you got the most important thing done.”

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