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Hug tunnel visits retirement communities around Colorado

Peggy Budai saw the idea in Brazil and decided to create her own way for loved ones to hug safely during the pandemic.

WINDSOR, Colorado — When it comes to love, Peggy Budai never imagined it would come to this.

"A sheet of plastic, which is basically painter's sheeting with arm holes in it with sleeves put together with plastic bags if you will," Budai said.

The career nurse practitioner made her own "Hug Tunnel" after seeing it in Brazil. It is a barrier made to allow people to hug their loved ones without making direct contact. Budai wanted to give something back that COVID-19 took away.

"My mom lived in the nursing home for quite a while and I can't imagine not giving her a hug," Budai said.

Delaine Holdeman doesn't have to imagine. That has been her struggle throughout the pandemic.

"Have not been with her physically so we could hug or anything like that since early March," Holdeman said.

She hasn't hugged her mom in more than 250 days. 

"I think life is all about relationships and part of that is physical touch," Holdeman said.

But, Tuesday afternoon at Good Samaritan Society's Water Valley Senior Living Resort in Windsor, Budai set up the Hug Tunnel for just the third time in the state of Colorado. Senior Living Manager Amanda Kerr is excited for her residents.

"Physical contact helps decrease anxiety, just being able to hug every once-in-a-while," Kerr said.

But, Kerr said it has to be done right in a community of people vulnerable to COVID-19.

"Safety in these times is absolutely a factor," Kerr said.

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Budai said she disinfects the Hug Tunnel each time in between each visit and even had the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sign off on her protocols.

"Because it was so important for the safety aspect that we didn't just assume it would be safe," Budai said. "So, I decided to take on the endeavor of writing a manual so that people didn't have to recreate it, figuring it all out on their own."

She wants everyone to copy her Hug Tunnel so people can finally have the hug they've been waiting for. Budai said retirement communities around Colorado are lining up to bring the Hug Tunnel to their residents.

"Because those relationships are so important to be able to allow people to touch each other, even if its through plastic," Budai said.

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