“Hug Time Shield” helps kids connect with their great-grandmother amid the coronavirus pandemic
ROCKFORD — The combination of social distancing and a face mask makes it hard to give your loved ones a hug amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop Carly Marinaro and her family from thinking of ways to spread love responsibly.
A couple of plastic pipes, a window installation kit, duct tape, plastic gloves used for handling livestock and some ingenuity birthed what Marinaro calls “The Hug Time Shield,” which was created so her kids could give their great-grandmother, Rose Gagnon, a hug.
The Rockford woman surprised her grandmother with the idea and caught her reaction on video and then uploaded it to Facebook. Since then, the video has gone viral, and at 7 p.m. on Friday it will be televised on CBS during Cedric the Entertainer’s new show “The Greatest #AtHome Videos.”
“#AtHome” won’t be the first time the video has seen the spotlight. Since she posted it on Facebook on May 12, Marinaro’s video has received national attention from the likes of E! and CNN. She’s surprised how an idea to connect her kids with their great-grandmother has garnered so much feedback.
“I had no idea it would get this big. And we’ve been joking saying, ’Hey, when is Ellen going to call?’” she said.
Although Marinaro’s grandmother is 85, Carly says she and her kids would see her at least three times a week. But since the pandemic hit, Marinaro says, her grandmother has not been able to come around for about two months outside of the occasional drive-by visit in which she will wave from her car.
In an attempt to remedy some of the social-distancing challenges, Marinaro has made her grandmother a mini-celebrity among residents in her living facility.
“My grandmother lives in a condo building with about 120 units and she loved it; she’s been popular among her friends,” Marinaro said.
While she never intended for The Hug Time Shield to go viral, Marinaro is happy that it did because of how heartfelt the feedback has been.
A mother of five, Marinario has greater appreciation for simple companionship, and her empathy has grown for those who have to continue to be more isolated to stay healthy. The video captures that.
“The emails and messages that I have gotten from all over the world were saying ’Thanks for sharing that. That brought me so much joy. Oh my gosh, you made me cry happy tears. I wish I could hold my grandchildren,’” Marinaro said. “I had no idea, and it’s really made people feel good. So that’s what I want to keep doing. Just not take things for granted.”
Shaquil Manigault: firstname.lastname@example.org; @RRstarShaquil