Calgary teen wins prestigious Diana Award for social work
CALGARY -- 16-year-old Maddi Tory has picked up an international award for her work in Alberta hospitals.
The Calgary teen is responsible for HUGS, a social enterprise meant to improve the quality of life of children who are sick.
That work has garnered attention around the country, and now it’s being recognized by a royal foundation.
Tory was honoured by the Diana Awards Wednesday.
The ceremony highlights children around the globe who, according to the award’s website, “are going above and beyond in their daily life to create and sustain positive change.”
“I was beyond excited and so speechless,” Tory said of the award.
HUGS is born out of the Calgarian’s own time spent in hospital, where she received heart surgery at the age of 13.
“I saw all these scared kids and their families,” Tory said. “Their childhood was being replaced with things like needles, IVs and long nights away. I really just wanted to give all these kids and their families a big hug.”
So, after recovering from surgery, the teen set out to do just that.
Tory says HUGS is a way to bring a smile to the faces of children in a tough situation.
The initiative raises funds through merchandise and throws “Hug Parties,” a chance to entertain the kids. Those parties have included Build-A-Bear workshops, Disney princess meet-and-greets and even a visit from a miniature horse.
Though Tory is also a public speaker and volunteer, she claims to be a “hug dealer, first and foremost.”
Her mom says after spending time on the other side of the entrance doors, it means so much to her to see her daughter help those in the hospital.
“Just for that few seconds where they’re giggling and laughing and you see them being a kid again — it’s so important,” Marni Tory said.
In just three years of HUGS, Tory has donated almost $40,000 towards initiatives that help children in hospitals.