Susan Agustin, an Army wife and mom, discovered Huggee Miss You dolls when relatives sent one to her 3-year-old daughter Maddie with photos of her cousins to keep in front of her. When Captain Gene Agustin deployed to Qatar, his photo replaced the cousins and a much needed form of comfort became part of Maddie's every day life. Read more about Maddie's doll below.
In 2003, Susan Agustin began distributing dolls through a home-based business, with the encouragement of other parents and preschool teachers. A portion of the profits went to Fisher House, and dolls were often donated to units that had suffered casualties. After a few months Susan realized that the importance of getting these dolls into the hands of children was far more important than any business. Susan turned her energies into creating the non-profit program and working on fundraising so that ALL military children who needed them could have dolls.
Operation Give a Hug was founded in 2004. Since its inception, Operation Give a Hug has given out more than 475,000 dolls to children who have parents serving our nation -- Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard -- through family readiness groups, family liaison officers, family programs coordinators, casualty assistance officers, and TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). The dolls are also being used by pediatric psychologists and school counselors to help children cope with deployment.
Operation Give a Hug is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
In 2002, Maddie Grace Agustin received a Huggee Miss You doll holding a picture of her cousins. At the time, Susan Agustin didn’t give it much thought, other than that it was a cute idea. The doll was soft stuffed with crazy yarn hair, but the face was a picture frame where a photo of her cousins was inserted. Shortly after receiving the doll, the Agustin family was informed that dad, Gene, would be deploying to the Middle East. Susan decided to take the doll and make it “daddy doll” so that Maddie would have a way to hug her dad everyday. This special doll did everything with Susan and Maddie. He went to preschool, the commissary, he got a "no cavity" report at the dentist, and if Maddie had a scraped knee, so did her dad. When it was time to read books at night, Susan would tell Maddie and her “daddy doll” to go pick which books they wanted to read. It turned out that this little doll wasn’t just benefiting Maddie during this challenging time, but it was also great for her dad's morale. When he was able to call, Maddie would have all sorts of things to tell her dad about what he was doing with her. He was sometimes quite surprised at just how busy he was at home, as well as overseas.
Maddie's "daddy doll" served the family well during Gene's 2003 deployment to Qatar and his subsequent deployments as he served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Djibouti in 2004 and in Iraq in 2005. Her "daddy doll" has been an important part of most of her childhood and is something she still holds onto today as a means of hugging her daddy while he is away on TDY trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.