I never would have imagined my VOSOTVO assignment leading me to a booth belonging to the Illini Secular Student Alliance (ISSA). They were offering dollar hugs, as well as five dollar group hugs, to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. As the spirited girl fronting the booth said, “All donations go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and every donation is matched up to 250,000 dollars!”
This is the ISSA’s second year running the booth. They got the idea from the Secular Student Alliance’s National event “Hug An Atheist.” Last year, they raised 430,000 dollars, and they hope to match, as well as beat this goal. By the time I reached the booth, they had already been there for at least three hours.
Ellen Andrews, an extrovert and member of the ISSA, stressed that there was more going on here than earning a couple of dollars for sharing a hug.
“We’re doing two things today: that’s fighting cancer by raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and fighting negative stigmas against atheists,” Andrews explained.
Atheists are often ridiculed for supposedly having no “moral compass” or not “giving back to the community.” That is far from the truth. The ISSA holds many awareness and fundraising events and not just “Hug An Atheist.”
You can find my video coverage of this event by following the link here.