Big Dave Hugs Santa in the North Pole...Alaska!

Hugs and High5s Reach Alaska...and Santa!

Late last year, I went to to Alaska to hug and high5 people, thus completing my quest to reach people in all 50 states!

Now, hugging Alaska was a wonderful experience because I was able to embrace all kinds of people from a 101-year-old veteran to a bunch of people that lived in Utqiagvik , the nation’s northernmost city about 1000 miles due south of the North Pole. But, the coolest person I hugged in the state was Santa Claus.

Santa Claus??

That’s right, Santa Claus!!

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We met at his home at 101 St Nicholas Drive in North Pole,  Alaska and it was surreal. My first thought upon seeing him seated in a big comfy throne-like chair atop a stage was 'this is so silly.'


But, as I stopped at the roped off area before the stage and was happily greeted by one of his helpers, I softened a bit.

"Where did you come from to meet Santa?" she asked.

“Philly,” I said and then blurted out my whole story of traveling the world offering hugs and goodwill.

“Wow,” she said, “that’s amazing ...well, let’s get you up to see Santa!” From there, she took my hand and led me through the ropes up to the big man himself.  With each step through the rope maze, I seemed to regress in age so by the time I was standing next to the man in red, I was feeling like a nervous 9-year old kid.

"Have you been good?" he bellowed.


"Sometimes,' I said and then gave him one of my hug coupons while sharing my story of hugging a quarter of a million people around the planet.




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Santa then looked at my card and then up at me and cut me off as I was speaking. "I heard your story," he said "but, more than that I felt your energy as soon as you walked in. Dave, you have as much spirit as I do. Look at the people in this room - they feel it too and are smiling because of you."  It was great to hear and Santa wasn't done speaking either. He finished with, "And, I imagine you’re selling yourself short on the number of hugs you've given- I think that it's at least double.

Now, really sounding like a kid, I said: "Do you think so, Santa?"

“Yeah, I do…now come on and sit on my lap.”



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We laughed about that and after getting some pictures, I began to step down from the stage when he stopped me. "Dave," he said, " don't stop."

 

Next Stop on the Hugs and High5s Tour - Belle Fourche, SD

It was a cool moment that made me think of ways to continue on and with that, I'd like to announce that on February 14th I am going to be going to the heart of the country just to hug people and would like you to join me.


No, I am not asking to travel with me to Belle Fourche, South Dakota, the geographic center of the United States, and hug and high5 people with me though it would be cool if you did.


No, I am asking you to join me by offering a hug, a high5 and a bit of happiness to someone that day for no other reason other than we need more of them in the world.


So remember this ask on Valentine’s Day. Hug someone...your spouse, your significant other, your child, your best friend, a coworker, a stranger...anyone! Help me spread



If You’re Lucky Enough

Dodge City, Kansas, 2017

When I was coming up with my Hugs and High5s itinerary, visiting Dodge City wasn’t anywhere on the list. However, as I sat in a Wichita, Kansas café where everyone I encountered was extremely—how do I say this?—less than enthusiastic about getting a hug, high-five or even a smile from me, I had to make a change.

And let me stop you before you think that some great amount of thought went into this decision; there wasn’t, I simply saw a ‘Visit Dodge City’ billboard on my way out of town. And I am so glad that I came across the sign, because I might have missed out on meeting one of the coolest guys on my trip.

The cool guy I am speaking of is a 97-year-old Dodge City resident named Bill. He and I happened to meet at The Boot Hill Museum, where you essentially step back in time to stroll the streets as they were in the 1800s and do everything from watching staged gunfights to meeting some actors who impersonate the guys who tamed the old west to seeing the local jail that housed some of the more unruly cowboys of the day.

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Bill and I met at the Dodge City Saloon, and through a conversation about our lives and travels he revealed that he had been slated to be a part of WWII’s D-Day invasion of Normandy on Day One—but hours before the storming of the beaches, he was pulled out of his rank and file by his supervising officer and told that he was being held back for Day Two of the battle.

Bill shared that he didn’t think too much about the decision at the time and figured that he would find out why he was chosen to be pulled out later on, but that moment never happened, because within hours of that decision, all of his comrades and their commanding officer were killed.

“I am alive because of that decision,” he calmly said.

With no explanation as to why he was spared, the decision tormented him a bit, and he was forced to “figure things out” on his own. After a few years, he said, he concluded that life boils down to one simple thing: If you are lucky enough to get another day, use it.

He said that this outlook simplified his life greatly, and brought him peace as well as an ability to find a way through problems that would have previously stopped him.

It was a great conversation, but just as I was settling in to listen to more stories, he told me that he was tired and that he’d given me enough. “Now go and hug some people, but take it easy on ‘em—you’re a strong man.”

I hugged him again, and as we parted, he repeated his credo: If you are lucky enough.



Is This Heaven?

People Will Come, Ray

In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer who hears voices telling him to build a baseball field on his in his cornfields. Most people think Ray is losing his mind but one man, Terrance Mann played by James Earl Jones, thinks otherwise and gives an impassioned speech to in trying to convince him to put a simple field on this valuable farmland. He says:

Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game. It's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

The film's dialogue may read as being a bit hokey now but in 1989, it played well enough to make the film a smash hit as well as give Dyersville a tourist attraction.

And, guess what...people are STILL flocking to Iowa for a simple game of catch. I know this because when I was mapping out places to visit on my Big Dave Hugs America trip last year -The Field of Dreams was one of them.  

Sandwiched between my hug events stints in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Minneapolis, I drove through miles upon miles of farmland to reach the field and it was worth it.

Chatting with a “Dreamer”

That’s because, on this random Friday, The Field of Dreams was packed with families, and individuals from all over the world who were pitching, catching, hitting, running the base paths and smiling. It was awesome. What made my visit even cooler was meeting this guy who, of the tens of thousands of people I met that summer, had the coolest job title ever: Dreamer.

I can’t remember his name but recall that his job entailed his greeting people as they entered the field and helping them live out their dream playing on the field.

If you build it…

If you build it…

Being a dream facilitator seemed like a cool gig and as I chatted with him wearing his replica uniform of the 1919 Chicago White Sox featured in the movie with a patch that says “Dreamer,” on each sleeve,  I asked him to estimate the number of visitors the field gets each year.

After a few silent moments, he wryly said,  “A lot.”

We both chuckled at that one but, one thing that he did know was that seeing the glint or “ magic” in every visitor's eye never gets old for him. “It’s a great thing to see,” he said.

I was on a tight schedule so I couldn't stay long but I couldn’t help but deliver the last line from the movie.

"Is this heaven,” I asked.

“No, this is Iowa’ he said with a smile.


Keep dreaming people.

Hugs and High5s



My Quest to Give Hugs and High-5s Across the Country

Hi Everyone!

Since the tragedy of September 11th took the life of a dear friend, I have bicycled around the world offering hugs and high-5s to people in need of care and uplifting. Pedaling across Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America have been special journeys to say the least. They have had me embracing thousands upon thousands of people around the world but, thanks to Advantage Rental Car, I was able to continue my journey of goodwill in a very different way. In the summer of 2017, I took a 77-day drive throughout the continental 48 United States.

Swedish Flight attendants in Chicago

Swedish Flight attendants in Chicago


Whether bicycling or driving, going across a country is always a cool trek but...it was the hugs, high-5s and smiles I received/gave that morphed this mere trip into the experience of a lifetime. That’s right, I said it: The Experience of a Lifetime!

How else would you describe a summer trip where you received positive interactions from almost 14,000 people - and you aren’t a movie star, musician, a part of a reality show, or a social media sensation??

Nope, I am none of those.

Who is “Big Dave?”

I am just a regular, old dude who hugged all types of people from newborns to 96-year-olds - from sworn bachelors to brides that were minutes from getting married - no joke  - from nomadic hitchhikers to US Senators and every type of person in between.

I high-5’d some people in two different cities, two people in 3 different states, and even hugged one person in 4 states…at the same time. Go ahead and figure out that riddle!

I have interacted with people from 57 countries, you can see full list below. This means I heard, “When are you coming to my country,” 57 times in a ton of different accents.

I hugged hip-hop legend KRS-1, rock god Michael Anthony of Van Halen, that dude from the Apple Commercials Justin Long, and Bryan Wilson, The Texas Law Hawk.

And the landmarks...I embraced people at The White House, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, The Sturgis Motorcycle Festival, the Four Corners Monument, The Field of Dreams, The Bridges of Madison County, Wrigley Field, The Oklahoma City Memorial, Dodger Stadium, Grand Teton, Twitter’s HQ, Mount Rainier National Park, Dartmouth, Brown, Ohio State, The Mall of America, 12 state capitals, and more.

Me with a D-Day survivor in Doge City, Kansas

Me with a D-Day survivor in Doge City, Kansas

I even came within a whisker of ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. 

The Start of my 48 State Journey

The seeds for my 48 state journey were planted in January of 2017 when, as a way to give people a good story to read. I came up with the crazy idea of hugging and high-5ing people at the geographic center/heart of the country on Valentine’s Day.

Lebanon, Kansas, pop. 195 is not only the geographic center of the nation but pretty much smack dab in the middle of the state as well. To get there, I had the option of either flying into Kansas City and driving 300 miles west or fly into Denver and drive 350 miles east, I chose to fly into Denver. My time in Lebanon was everything that I hoped it would be; friendly faces, good people, and plenty of open skies. However, out of the 105 people I embraced, one really stuck with me.

As I stood at Ladow’s Market and gave out hugs, high-5s, and good vibes, one man came up to me and said that he read an article about me and drove all the way from Wyoming for me. Knowing that Wyoming was at least 400 miles away because I just drove from Denver, I  looked at the man and incredulously asked, “For what? 

“A hug,” he replied.

“For real???”

“Yeah.”

We embraced after that exchange but, I kept an eye on this guy as I hugged other people in the market because of the effort this guy put forth. I watched him hug others in the market, watched him smile as he ate and watched him walk up to me again for another hug but what I really did was listen to him when he said: “Keep going, man. This is awesome...I gotta go."

And with that, the man that drove 5+ hours for a simple embrace was gone.

All the way back to Philadelphia, I thought, “Surely there was someone within 400 miles that this dude could have embraced, right?” 

“Maybe not,” I concluded.

With this in mind, I hatched the idea to drive the continental 48 states offering hugs, high-5s, and good vibes to anyone that wanted it. It was a crazy idea, I know, that required a lot of prep time looking at routes, reaching out to the press, and trying to find venues where I could go offer hugs, but I was committed. The world needed something to smile about and with Advantage Rental Car telling me to,  “Just keep doing what you do, Dave, and make people happy,” I worked like a friend at giving people a reason to grin.

This couple just tied the knot in Vegas!

This couple just tied the knot in Vegas!

The Journey Begins

While I’ve put together tours in the past, I never did anything this big. So ,I just went into this with the barest parameters in place. First, I set a start date of June 26th, a route throughout the nation, and an end date of September 11th in NYC! 

Everything else would depend on my personal will to go after as many positive interactions as I could. The tour began in Delaware, the first state, and went through Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Charlotte, Charleston, and into Advantage Rental Car’s HQ in Orlando. With each city, I grew bolder and bolder and found myself going after positive interactions with even more aplomb. 

For starters, I hugged every employee at Advantage.

I walked into a random frat house in New Hampshire.  

I visited Birmingham's 16th street Baptist Church, a Greek Orthodox church in Rhode Island, a southern California synagogue, and Colorado's oldest Mosque. 

I picked up twelve different hitchhikers.

I hugged multiple generations of families at reunions in Mississippi, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma.

I gave a talk at a women’s recovery group in West Virginia.  

I high-5'd people on land, sea and air! Go figure! 

I ambled up to two Motorcycle Clubs in Oregon.

I even ventured into a few establishments with confederate flags hanging outside and engaged people in a conversation, not necessarily to change their mind, but to have a good exchange and open their mind. And yes, I did get hugs and high-5s each time.

I pushed every boundary I possibly could on this tour because we need smiles and good vibes more than ever right now in order to reclaim, revive and reestablish trust in each other.

We need to smile and see others smile right now.

Why Bother, Do You Say?

Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa!

Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa!

We need to connect, I mean, actually connect, and not just give a “thumbs up,” right now.

We need to reach out to hug as well as feel safe within an embrace's warmth right now.

And everyone could use a high-5 right now.

So, look through my Instagram images, @thehumanhigh5,  and when you do, please pay close attention to the smiles.

Pay attention because those grins and good vibes are what made all the difference this summer as well as what makes all the difference in our daily lives.

In closing, I want to thank the 13,986 people that I hugged and high-5’d last summer. Your warmth and encouragement brought me more joy than you realize and your life stories gave me a perspective that will fuel me on to new heights. Blessings to you.

I also want to thank the many people around the world that I didn't embrace on this tour but who stayed in touch with me throughout my journey. You honor me as well as motivate me to see more and be more.

To the four individuals I met on this trip who went on to NYC and took the time to take a picture of my friend Kevin Bowser's name at the 9/11 Memorial. The touch of your gesture is beyond measure. Thank you.

You may be wondering if, after hugging 250,000+ people in 49 states and 36 countries in 17 years, I am done.  

Not at all.

I am planning another trip as we speak, so stay tuned and trust that I will hug you soon:)

Thank you for reading! 

Hugs and High-5s  

Big Dave Hugs America

Big Dave