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Need a hug? This woman gives them by the thousands

Laura Dyan Kezman

A smile from Ingrid Eubanks feels like a hug. Her bright disposition and smooth cadence emits a comforting energy in any environment.

Therefore it's no coincidence that her purpose in life gravitated toward one thing: hugs.

Ingrid is the Hug Lady. The Hug Lady. Milwaukee only has one, and she's it.

Twelve years ago Eubanks serendipitously came across a YouTube video of a man who began hugging people after being inspired to do so while traveling. He did so with a simple invitation: a small sign that advertised "Free Hugs." Her reaction to this was immediate and impactful; before she knew it she made her own sign.

On April 14, 2007, Eubanks showed up at her first event as the Hug Lady. It was an event in downtown Milwaukee that was celebrating prominent local women. She left that event having given roughly 500 hugs — it was at the moment, she says, that it changed her life.

Eubanks is a goal setter. Her first significant goal as the Hug Lady was to hug 1,000 in one day. She completed this while hugging at the Locust Street Festival in 2013.

How does she keep track, you ask? A clicker counter.

Her next ambitious goal that she's excited to achieve is a Hug Tour, in which she will be giving out hugs in every state. There's no deadline, she says, as enjoying the process of getting there is just as, if not more, important.

"After about 400 hugs the endorphins kick in."

At the root of her mission is compassion. She sees a need for spreading kindness, both in her own community and across the country, and feels as though something as simple as a hug is the most effective way to do that.

"My life is now very hug-based," Eubanks says with a laugh.

Watch the Community Story video above to meet Ingrid, and find out what her biggest piece of advice is for giving great hugs.

If you want a hug for yourself, the next Milwaukee event you can spot Ingrid at will be this year's Locust Street Festival on Sunday, June 9 — her eighth Locust Street Fest appearance. Just look for the "Free Hugs" sign.