When Emily Sisco challenged her students to create a piece of adaptive equipment for her dad who had a stroke eight years ago, she knew they’d rise to the challenge.
What the occupational therapy assistant and adjunct professor at Arkansas State University could not have known is how a video of her dad using that piece of equipment would touch millions around the world.
It’s called the “HugAgain,” and it allows Kevin Eubanks — Sisco’s dad — to give two-armed hugs again despite weakness in his left arm. Occupational therapy assistant students Lisa James, Larissa Garcia, Erica Dexter and Casey Parsons came up with the idea after Eubanks mentioned how much he missed being able to hug his loved ones.
“We created a strap that he could grab with the other hand and wrap around another person,” James told TODAY Parents.
Garcia added that the team wanted the piece of equipment they made for Eubanks “to be meaningful to him.”
And it was. Since Eubanks’ emotional response to being able to hug his grandsons was captured and shared by Sisco, it has been viewed more than 4 million times.
“My dad’s a crier,” Sisco told TODAY. His response is due in part, she said, to his emotional regulation “not being what it once was.”
Eubanks said he believes the long-running global pandemic contributed to the outpouring of positive feedback about his experience with the HugAgain.
“The lack of human interaction [has] people craving intimate touch,” he said. “Don’t ever take the little things for granted.”
Sisco said her dad was grateful to the students who created not only the HugAgain, but several other items to help him in his everyday life.
“He came in person to thank them for making a difference not only in his life but in so many other lives too,” she said.
Eubanks said he thinks the video is giving people far outside the walls of his daughter’s classroom hope.
“I hope it’s encouraging people to never give up,” he told TODAY. “I want them to see that after eight years of not being able to hug, I now can again, so don’t ever give up.”