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It's a new record, and Newmarket owns it: 501 huggers, 4,008 hugs (36 photos)

The Hugs4Hope event was a rousing success, breaking a Guinness world record and raising more than $7,000 for two charities

If you want a world-record-breaking hug, Newmarket is the place to go.

Newmarket is poised to own the Guinness World Record for the most hugs by a team of eight in 60 minutes — the records are on the way to Guinness for the official stamp of approval.

Five hundred and one residents filled Trinity United Church to capacity yesterday afternoon and 4,008 hugs were shared to break the record with ease for Newmarket's Hugs4Hope hugathon.

Huggers of all ages filled the pews, with cards with their number strung around their necks for the official videotape record — and with many practising the "full hug" and "right arm up" technique that would help break the record of 2,450 hugs in an hour.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor blasted the horn at 2 p.m. to start the hugging, and then took to the mic to urge the huggers to keep pace as the clock ticked.

Performer Marky Monday began strumming his banjo and singing a hugs song, and he didn't stop until the hour had passed — maybe he broke a record, too.

The eight hug team members were Jackie Playter, newly elected Newmarket-Aurora MP and former mayor Tony Van Bynen, Trinity United Church Rev. Linda Wheler, Kathy Proudfoot, NewmarketToday editor Debora Kelly, and representing the two charity recipients, Una Wright, founder and executive director of Youth Speak Performance Charity, and lead Hugs4Hope organizer Nancy Bodi and Hitesh Parmer, members of the Global Strides Charity board of directors.  

The record was easily smashed at about 30 minutes into the hugathon — admittedly, most of the hugging team did break a bit of a sweat as adrenaline soared — and the huggers kept coming to set new heights for Newmarket's world record.

In fact, organizers remain overwhelmed and gratified at the overwhelming support the community showed, as there were times in the weeks beforehand that fingers were tightly crossed in the hopes enough huggers would take part.

"The community came through!" said an exultant hug team member Parmer. "It truly was meant to be!"

"It was wonderful to be part of it and to see our community come together," said Angela Vegh, one of many volunteers on the day of the event who helped to make it happen.

More than $7,000 has been raised for YouthSpeak Performance Charity and Global Strides.

You can still make a donation, which supports youth in our community and abroad,

The record-breaking afternoon included fabulous entertainment, volunteered by the performers and organized by Sher St. Kitts, as well as food donated by Cachet Supper Club.

"Our Arts Spotlight Theatre family is very honoured to have been part of something so special," said Katherine Solluch, director of the theatre company. "It was wonderful seeing the community come together for such a happy occasion." 

"I am still smiling. It was a truly inspirational event," said Debra Weller, co-founder and director of the Global Strides. "The Town of Newmarket has something very special. Not only in the amazing individuals who contributed to this moving event, but in the community that showed up to share their love. I feel so blessed to have been part of it and am thankful for the wonderful exposure our charities received."

Committee member and Global Strides board member Gord Paolucci acknowledged the significant role played by Bodi as the brainchild and main organizer of the event, adding, "It put a big smile on my face and reminded me that most people are good and kind."

Event sponsors included the Town of Newmarket, the Rose Corporation, Main Street BIA, NewmarketToday/Village Media, NewRoads Automotive Group, St. Kitts Music, Cachet Supper Club, Treefrog, and Trinity on Main.

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Debora Kelly

About the Author: Debora Kelly

Debora Kelly is NewmarketToday's editor. She is an award-winning journalist and communications professional who is passionate about building strong communities through engagement, advocacy and partnership.
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