January 18, 2022

Homer girl is spreading joy during the pandemic

Sending a virtual hug

Photo provided by Elena Barrett

Elena Barrett holds a HuggyBox Saturday at her home. Barrett is selling the boxes to support response workers during the pandemic.

Elena Barrett never liked it as a child when her father, Mark Barrett, had to leave for business trips.

To ease her mind when he was gone, Mark Barrett would leave sticky notes under her pillow with the word “hug” written on them so she could get a hug from him while he was away, he said.

When she turned 11, Elena Barrett decided that if these hugs could help her, they could also help other people as well.

She then turned this idea into a business with the creation of the HuggyBox, a box that contains space for a message on the inside of the box’s lid and a perforated heart that can be taken off to squeeze to send a virtual hug.

“Everyone loves them,” said Elena Barrett, now a Homer High School freshman.

The HuggyBox has taken on more important meanings now, she said, as people can stay connected with each other through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since we can’t hug people, it’s just a virtual hug for someone you can’t see right now,” she said.

Proceeds from purchases will go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to help support response and recovery activities for responders to COVID-19 and those affected by it.

How to get one

For details or to buy a HuggyBox, go to https://tinyurl.com/r2ejpng

She has sold about 200 HuggyBoxes since the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping the world a few weeks ago.

“Joy (Barrett, Elena’s mother) and I are really proud of who she is and what she’s doing with her company,” Mark Barrett said.

He estimated that Elena Barrett has sold more than 1,000 boxes to various businesses since she started making and producing them three years ago.

Mark Barrett said he was also impressed with how she was able to start her business all based on an idea that started with a sketch on a napkin.

This included searching for and getting setup with Tucker Printers, a printing and packing business in Henrietta.

“She just has such a large heart,” Mark Barrett said. “I hope she keeps doing things like this. I hope she stays creative and continues to think of great inventions to make in this world.”