Free Hugs

podcast Jan 01, 2019

Ken Nwadike Jr. (aka “The Free Hugs Guy”) is known for his work in de-escalating violence during protests, riots, and political rallies. His life story is one of a determined, tender heart—reminding us that we can accomplish incredible things if we remain motivated by love. We talk with Ken about how he went from sharing a room with four siblings and his mother in a homeless shelter to inspiring millions of people around the world.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jeff: Can you take us a little bit through your story? You grew up here, right?

Ken: Yes. Grew up here in South Central Los Angeles. Before then, my family, we were living in Seattle, Washington at the time. Five kids in our family and one day we came home from school to our house being raided and my father was arrested and my mom decided at that time she was going to just take all five kids in our family and moved us here to Los Angeles. We got here 1991, so shortly after our arrival, we're watching on the news the Rodney King beating happen and then a little while after that, the LA Riots of '92.

We were still a new family in Los Angeles trying to get on our feet at the time and while everyone else is watching these riots take place on the news, we're looking right outside the windows of the shelter that we're in and seeing all of the fires and the chaos going on. Watching the race divide happen as we saw the black versus white, black versus asian communities, so much division happening right before us and that was my welcome to LA was seeing this level of chaos unfold right in front of us.

Fast forward, by the time I got to middle school, I went from being this kid that I felt like was really outgoing. I had so many siblings in my house and we didn't really have the opportunity to be shy but eventually I became very shy, very introverted, and kept to myself when I would walk around campus and just really struggled to find myself while I was in school.

Jeff: What were your living conditions at this point in your life?

Ken: It was rough. We were hopping in and out of homeless shelters pretty much my entire young adult life because for my mom, raising five kids by herself, it always made it hard for her to go out and find work because babysitters were expensive. So being in these shelters, it was really tough. Some of the spaces that we would stay in, just imagine a room this size, probably even a little smaller with all six of us in there. The boys, we would have sleeping bags on the floor. My mom and sister had their little beds or cot, whatever you would call it. That went out for what I felt was far too long. Just so many years of our life trying to get on our feet.

Our living conditions as children, it wasn't easy at all.

Jeff: You weren't only dealing with the actual hardships of being homeless but you were also dealing with the stigma associated with it. It must be tough with friends and social groups.

Ken: Very much so. To try and hide it in school because kids are mean at that age and so you just worry about any of that word getting out and then getting picked on even beyond your regular appearance. Haircut, clothes, shoes. I think even beyond that when kids know you actually live in a homeless shelter. That could be really bad for a young kid.

Jeff: You discovered something that you excelled at and it was you were really fast.

Ken: It came by accident. My way of coping with the struggles that we were going through, I would just hit the streets and just go run. I think that's where some of the initial talent started to come from but I didn't know that I was an athlete. One day, as I was in high school. There was a coach at the school, one day he was walking past me and he said, "Hey, how come every time I walk past you, you're looking at the ground?" I had told him when I make eye contact with people they give me dirty looks, sometimes they have mean things to say. It's just easier for me to keep to myself. He said, "Let's get you out on the track team."

I was super excited about it. I remembered rushing back to the shelter and telling my mom. The coach wants me to join the track team, what do you think? She was like, "We can't really afford any extracurricular activities but if you can figure out how to make it happen, go for it." So I went back to the school and I remember in PE class people leave behind their old shoes and running shorts and things and I just grabbed those and I started training with the team.

By the time school came back in session and I had told that coach I really want to the mile as my primary event and he had said. He said, "I was talking with the counselor and found out that your family lives in a homeless shelter that's not nearby the school so there's a charter school in the district nearby where you're supposed to be so I'm fighting to keep you here.

Sure enough, he was able to just through talking to the counselor got me to stay there and he had told me, just with keeping you here at this school, I'm really concerned about your well being so just know that you can lean on me, you can lean on some of these teammates that you've been training with to change your circumstances, to run away from homelessness.

I set out to run my first mile, ended up running that in four minutes and 17 seconds.

Jeff: Wait a minute, four minutes and 17 seconds on your first mile?

Ken: First mile.

Jeff: What's the world record for a mile?

Ken: I know for a long time, the American record was 3:47 which was held by my coach. Yeah, as a high school kid, probably 15 years old at the time running a 4:17. People were like where did that come from? I think a lot of it was just hitting the streets and training on my own. Already having some of that stamina built up but then just knowing that I didn't want to let people down. I didn't want to let that coach down, my teammates down. These are people who, for the first time, I felt like they believed in me.

Even more importantly, I saw it as a ticket out of homelessness. If I do this well, maybe I can get to college. If I do this well maybe it can open up other opportunities for me. I was literally running for my life. That was how I viewed it. You can go back to these shelters or I Think at the time I was thinking about if I graduate from high school, what do I do next? I was probably just going to go into a branch of the Armed Forces. I'm glad that I didn't go that route. There's a lot more that I've been able to provide for my family and even give to the country with some of the work that I've been able to do as opposed to going into the Armed Forces right out of high school, which at the time I felt would have been my only option if it wasn't for track and field.

Jeff: Take us through your track and field career and how that segued into your first swing at community activism or community organization.

Ken: Totally. After high school ... You know what was interesting is a number of college coaches and scouts, they started coming out to my races to see me run. I didn't really know much about the sport. I was just doing it for the people that were around and that I cared about. I really wanted to go to UCLA or USC. At that time, we had been transferred to a shelter that was in downtown San Diego and while I was at that school, I had just finished up my run and then my high school coach says, "Hey Steve Scott was here to see you, he left his phone number." I'm like, "Who the heck is Steve Scott?"

He goes, "Steve Scott is America's fastest miler. He holds the American mile record. He's famous for being a miler and that's your event." I was like, "Where is he?" He's like, "He said he had to leave but he really wanted to talk to you because he's taking a coaching position at a college in San Diego and he wants you to go there." I wanted to go to UCLA or USC and when their scholarship offer came back, it was partial and I was like there is no way I'm going to be able to afford that so I went back and tracked down Steve and he was like, "I was hoping you would call me," gave me a full ride so I ended up going to Cal State San Marcos.

I got faster there. From there I joined the Nike Farm Team which is an Olympic development program that was based out of Stanford University. In training with them, now I'm around all of these athletes, some of whom had already competed in the Olympics and I just really loved the sport. While I was there, I started thinking about all of these kids that I grew up in and out of these shelters with that would never have this sort of opportunity that I had where someone comes into their life, believes in them, tries to change their circumstances so I wanted to be that for these kids.

Everyday I would leave track practice, I would go volunteer my time at homeless shelters around there. Eventually I left the Bay area, I was down here in LA so I continued doing the same thing. I would start spending time in these homeless shelters trying to tell these kids, change your life you can change your circumstances, those of you guys that are using drugs right now or in gangs right now, let's hone in on what your actual talents are. It was crazy because sometimes they would tell me really off the wall stuff. I would say, "What's your biggest goal that you can think of right now?" And I remember one kid said, it was a girl, and she said, "My biggest goal is to end up on the Jerry Springer show so I could tell the whole world all of my drama." I'm like, "Yo, you've got to dream bigger than that."

I convinced a number of the kids to hone in on what some of their talents were and then I told them, why don't we create an event together? Let's create this event, we'll call it the Hollywood Half Marathon, we'll shut down Hollywood Boulevard and we'll try to bring out as many runners as possible to raise funds and awareness for homeless teens. I realized I can't just tell them to change their circumstances, sometimes you have to show them, sometimes you have to hold their hand. That was my way of holding their hand and just really trying to inspire them. We set out to do it. Called up LAPD, say how much is it going to cost to shut down Hollywood Boulevard and the cop laughed.

Jeff: So that's something, to put in context, that happens for major movie premieres or for the Oscars.

Ken: Yeah.

Jeff: This is not a simple thing that happens every day.

Ken: No, it's not just some guy who came out of a homeless shelter and said I've got this idea, I want to shut down Hollywood Boulevard. The cop, he was like do you understand the cost of that and all of the logistics that goes into shutting down such an iconic road? I didn't think anything of it. I was like, "There's a bunch of kids in this shelter that I'm trying to inspire," and he's like, "You might want to choose somewhere else to do that."

We were actually on speaker phone at the shelter at the time. I remember the look on their faces where it was just like boom, shut down, this is not happening. That look of disappointment from them, I was like we can't let this be the end. So I started reaching out to various media outlets and saying, "Here's what I'm trying to do. Here's my story and why I'm trying to do it." Fortunately, NBC4LA got on it right away, shared the story. From there, there were all of these other news sites that started picking it up. Celebrities started reaching out to me.

Some of them were runners already but they hadn't competed in races and they were like we want to get behind your cause so they started tweeting about it, spreading the word. It helped. Just getting all these runners out. Before we knew it we had over 10,000 people that had registered to run in the Hollywood half marathon. I still wasn't even sure yet how I was going to shut down the Boulevard but we got the money though. We've got a million bucks now so called the cop back up and I said, "We've got the money so we want to try to make it happen." We were down to the wire for the date that I had set in mind to pull this off. Before you know it, just made all the connections.

Days before, it was really amazing for some of those kids that were living at the shelter at the time. Some of them at the LA Covenant House, some at the Los Angeles Youth Network. Being there in that meeting where they knew me as the guy who was like I don't like cops either, I don't trust the cops - because none of these kids did either. I'm like we don't really vibe with the cops. Now here we are, days before this race. 75 police officers in this meeting ballroom up at the Hilton Universal as I'm there with a clipboard telling them, "I'm going to need you at this intersection shutting this down. I need these freeway on and off ramps."

Just imagine what that's like for a kid in a homeless shelter who is looking at another kid from a homeless shelter who is pulling this off. To them, it was unreal. Even to me. As it was all happening, I'm like this can't be real. This can't really be happening right now.

I didn't get to breathe that sigh of relief until that first runner crossed the finish line.

Jeff: Was that moment where you felt like, "Damn, anything is possible."

Ken: Totally. Totally because that was such a feat that I couldn't have even dreamed that. I remember standing on the balcony, we were at the W hotel, they became our host hotel of the event because the starting line ran past there. Just imagine what it's like for a single mother that struggled raising five kids her entire life and we're there on the balcony right before the race is about to start and I had told my mom, in about five minutes there should be about 10,000 people that are going to run past the front of this hotel right now. She was on the balcony and she was watching and as they run by, my mom just burst into tears. She's like, "All of these people are out here because my son, who grew up in these shelters nearby, wanted to inspire some of these young kids to show them that that doesn't have to be their finish line."

It was such a special moment because my mom and I, we struggled the most getting along growing up because I felt like she put all this pressure on me as the first son in the family that without a dad in the house, all this pressure falls onto Kenny. We butt heads a lot. That was such a special moment for her to see.

That sort of pride that came from my mother, it was really special and to know that even just a moment like that had helped us overcome some of our personal issues but even to show her, all of the struggling that we did for over a decade after my father was out of the picture, it doesn't have to be like that anymore. That was how we just set out on this pace to try and change as many things in our lives as possible. Things are good now. Growing up was really rough.

Jeff: So, obviously running played such a central part of your life and of your trajectory. You ended up at the Boston Marathon, not exactly how you'd imagined being at the Boston Marathon.

Ken: Yeah. Just imagine after we put on this, what I felt was a dream race. It was a dream come true to pull this thing off. Afterward, our whole production staff, we go and get a bite to eat, we're hanging out, we say let's take a break from breaking down a lot of the stuff and we'll go hang out and then the next morning, we'll continue after we watch the Boston Marathon together. As runners, the Boston Marathon is like our Superbowl.

So we're watching the Boston Marathon and bombs go off at the finish line of their race. Initially we were like there's no way that that really happened. Just imagine a day earlier we're at the finish line of our own race and I know what that's like. When you're high fiving runners, you're hugging them and all of this joy and excitement as people cross the finish line. Now we're watching on the news as on the other side of the country, people's limbs are blown off. People died at the finish line of the race.

I was just in shock. I felt like it was such an attack on something that I loved so much because it changed my life. If it wasn't for running I don't know where I would be literally today, right now. Running has played such an intricate part in so many different areas of my life runners have been some of the best friends that I've ever met, people who encouraged me and motivated me. I knew I needed to have some sort of bold stand of solidarity because I didn't want people to be scared saying I'm not going to participate in this race or that race because what if something like that happens again.

So I set out on this campaign to try to promote as many people to come out to the next Boston Marathon as possible. In promoting it, then I realized maybe I need to run a Marathon, too. I had never run a marathon before. Before that, the longest distance for me was a 5K. That's three miles. A marathon, 26.2 miles, I was like, this is going to be tough. But then of all marathons to choose, I didn't know that you have to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon. The qualification standards are insane.

I knew if I'm going to try to pull this off, it's probably going to take me a year to train to run that qualification standard. I started training to do it. Called up my coach at Nike, said can you put together a work out plan for me? Even he doubted it. He's like, "Ken, you're not built for a marathon, man."

So I started training. Tried to qualify at this race and I ended up staying on pace the whole way until right as I came through the finish line. I ran the 3:05 that I needed to run but it was like point 11 seconds or something like that so wasted an entire year of training and now unable to go.

Jeff: So you ran and it was 3:05 and 11 seconds?

Ken: Yeah.

Jeff: And that wasn't good enough.

Ken: No.

Jeff: You had to hit the 3:05.

Ken: It has to be 3:05.00 to go to the Boston Marathon. There is no - they don't bend on those qualification standards based on what your age is. The older you get, the slower the time gets. That year, a 3:05 flat wouldn't have even gotten me there because so many people were trying to run in the Boston Marathon that they actually sped up the qualification time so it would have been maybe a 3:04 or 3:03 that it would have taken for me to get there.

I tried again. Six days later. Which you don't do. If you've ever run a marathon before, you would know. You're still struggling to get feeling back in your legs a month later, not even six days. Here I was, I ran that first race on a Sunday, I came back that same Saturday, flew out to Utah and was like I'm going to try this again. Here I was, I'm trying to inspire and motivate these kids that were living in the shelter at the time and telling them you can do anything you put your mind to it, you can pull it off. They were like, "Ken, you can't run a marathon though." I needed to prove them wrong and I needed to get to the Boston Marathon.

So I flew out to Utah because there was this race called Big Cottonwood Mountain where you would come down the side of that mountain and then it finishes at sea level. My thought was if you're coming down the side of a mountain, it's going to propel you forward fast. I was like, "I got this." Come through, I run exactly 3:05 again, and this time like point nine seconds. Even just a little faster again but not fast enough to get into the Boston Marathon.

It was the first time I had come through the finish line of a race in all my years of running and I crossed the line and I just burst into tears. One, my body was hurting. Two, I felt like not only did I let down these kids at the shelter, but all of the people that I was promoting this campaign to online saying let's get as many people out to the Boston Marathon to show our stand of solidarity, to show that we won't be intimidated by these acts of terrorism on our sport. Now, the guy who was leading this campaign isn't able to participate in the race. You can imagine what that felt like for me.

I got back to the shelter and I was talking to the kids and I said, "I've tried everything I can to try to get into the Boston Marathon, I can't do it. What do you guys think if I just fly out to Boston anyway? I print free hugs on a t-shirt and I just go and try to hug as many people as possible. Just to show them we're not going to allow hate to divide us. Just to remind people how important love is and how much we need to come together.”

If you've ever met some of these kids out here that live in the homeless shelters or even some of these kids from the hood, they're very doubtful of any of that love stuff. So they're looking at me with the side eye and right away they're like, "Ken, that's the stupidest idea we ever heard of. Who is going to hug some random brother in Boston? Boston of all places? You're not going to get any hugs. You're wasting your time."

So, I let their doubt set into my head but I had already purchased this flight because I was so sure that I was going to qualify to get to Boston. I booked a hotel room, flight, everything. Thinking I'm going to run it. I'm going, no matter what.

I stopped by the mall, I grabbed a black t-shirt, I went to one of those on the spot printers. They printed the free hugs on the t-shirt and I flew out to Boston. As I was on the plane and I was really thinking about this idea. Okay, where do I stand? How do I do it? How do I initiate that first hug? IS anyone even going to hug me? All this doubt really started to take over and I was like this isn't going to go well.

I got there, I set up on the race course, I was probably about mid way because. I said mid way might be the sweet spot where I get people where they are still kind of excited but the pain is just starting to set in so they could use a hug at that point.

When I got there, on course, it was like the first wave of maybe a dozen people or so just blew right past me as I'm holding this sign and I set up a camera. They just blew right past me. I was like this is going to be a rough day. When the first guy came into get that hug, it changed everything.

That broke the ice. Once he took that first hug, nonstop. Thousands of people.

Young, old, men, women. People that stuck around and shared words of encouragement with me, people that said how much this is needed, what it meant to them, people who would just come in and hug me and just cry on shoulders. People that would just say keep this up, the world needs so much more of this.

I went from going there with all of this doubt to my heart exploding while I'm out there. Just imagine what it's like being a kid who grew up the way that I grew up to where now you just have this outpouring of thousands of strangers just coming in and hugging you. I'm talking about real hugs. Some people who would pick me up and run a few paces with me. Some people that would just really stay there and hang on and talk. It was really special.

Jeff: This was a gift that you were giving but you were receiving it, too.

Ken: That's what's so cool about hugs. People don't realize. It's not possible to give a hug without receiving a hug. I wish that more people would take up on that offer when you're offering hugs. It's helping you, too.

Jeff: The experience coming out of the Boston Marathon kind of set you off on a whole path.

Ken: Yes.

Jeff: That was at first about going to more races and more sporting events, is that right?

Ken: Mm-hmm.

Jeff: But then eventually, that morphed into something else. What was that inflection point?

Ken: I was going to a number of different races for a while and that was where this work had started to feel a little flat because I realized I'm always around happy people. That really set in to mind when I was at the Disneyland half marathon and I was giving hugs there and it was that light bulb goes off. You're at what's called the happiest place on earth giving hugs to try to make people happy. I was like, this isn't my place. This isn't where I'm supposed to be. Especially, it was at the time when Treyvon Martin had just been shot by George Zimmerman, there were a number of similar incidents like that that had taken place. The Michael Brown shooting. My heart just started to get really heavy at that time seeing all of this death and destruction and riots and protests starting to unfold.

I felt like if anywhere needs hugs or dialogue around unity and inclusion and civility, it would be those places. I knew that showing up at these running races and giving people hugs, that's not the best use of what I felt were some of my talents or my abilities to bring people together. So, around that time, I started making some YouTube videos in my studio, just sharing with people how important it is that we come together. An agent out of Connecticut had picked me up to start speaking at schools about that similar message. I Started traveling around to these schools and I started going to riots and protests and I was in South Carolina one night, I was giving a lecture at the University there and then the riots unfolded in North Carolina and I remember coming out of that talk and as we got out into the lobby, all of these kids were glued to the TV watching what was happening in North Carolina.

I said, "How far are we from there?" They said, "It would probably take you about 30 minutes to get there, maybe 30 minutes to an hour." I remember just jamming out of the school as quick as possible and rushed out to North Carolina. As soon as I showed up there, it was already a really chaotic scene. All of this tear gas and pepper spray in the air, the police were shooting those flash bang devices that sound like gun shots. As I'm running in, there is tons of people running out. Even people saying, "Yo, don't go in there. It's bad. It's bad." I knew that's where I need to be. Where people are going to be hurting and where I could lend a hand.

As I get in there, right away tying a covering over your face because all of the gas that was in the air so you just start choking immediately. People had already started breaking into some of the buildings downtown. I remember seeing as they had broken into the art gallery. They were taking art off the wall. I was like, this is starting to seem like LA in 92 all over again. But, in LA in 92, I was a boy and there wasn't really much that I could have done as this 11 year old kid watching the riots all around me and wanting there to be peace. Now, as an adult, I have a voice now. I can try to figure out what I can do to help in this situation.

As I'm seeing all of that chaos unfold, right away I start talking to some of the protestors and letting them know, "Hey man, you don't want to do this. You guys that are busting up cars." They are jumping on top of cars and crushing them from the top. I saw some guys just walking around with hammers and they are walking up to police cars and just banging out the windows. Some of the hotel workers that were in that hotel were all hiding behind the reception desk as there was a line of protestors just throwing rocks and bricks into the hotel trying to hit them. Some of them were laughing about it. I'm like, "What good is this going to solve? If anything all of the media cameras that are down here are filming all of this and it makes you guys look bad. It's not going to create any change at all."

As I'm having that conversation with some of the protestors, you start to form a crowd around you because people are like what's this guy talking about? That crowd started to get bigger as I'm walking and talking with them. Then things took a really interesting turn as we were walking by a line of riot police and the largest cop that's in the crowd, here is this, this giant six foot something and not like six foot one like me. I think this cop was probably, Chris might be six nine or so. Giant guy. In his riot gear. White guy. In North Carolina and he says, "Hey man, do I get one of those hugs?" I was like oh man. Here I am with all of these protestors who I've got to stand down. They are not crushing cars or running into the buildings and a lot of these protestors, being black, some of them Latino, all of them are looking like what's he going to do? Is he really going to go and hug this cop?

I was super nervous at the time. My heart is racing. At first, I want to be sure is that even what he said? I don't want to walk up on this line of police and get tazed or shot in front of this whole crowd. So I was like, "What did you say?" And he said, "Do I get a hug? Come here. Bring it in." I was like, damn. He really did say that. I go over toward their line and I hug this cop. Sure enough, before I can even turn around from coming out of that hug, these protestors who were in agreement with me and I had gotten to stand down, they're now picking up those same bricks and bottles that they were throwing at the police officers and now they're cursing at me, they're calling me all sorts of stuff. A coon. An uncle Tom. Way even worse stuff than that before I could even turn around.

They're like come over here, come over here. At that moment you go into flight or fight mode. I'm like I'm definitely not going to fight this mob but I'm still really fast, I could just run away really quick. But you've got all these news cameras around and one thing I have always known is when you run away from a fight like that, you're probably going to get chased. I knew in this moment, I'm thinking I have to really defend the message that I came here with. I'm thinking what would someone like Doctor Martin Luther King do in a situation like this when he is trying to create peace in a really volatile situation? Do you back off and do you allow chaos to win or do you stand your ground for what your message is?

Rather than running off, instead I approached these protestors and it was almost like fear went out the window in that moment because now I became more purpose driven. Here's my purpose. Here's my message in being here. I didn't even think about what could have happened as a number of them already had rocks and bricks in their hands because they were throwing them into buildings, they were throwing them at the police. I didn't have on any armor. I literally just had on just as you see me right now. A black t-shirt.

Rather than running away I start walking in toward them and letting them know why it's important for us to see each other as human beings and how change was going to come about. Change wasn't going to come about by us destroying that area. I was letting them know, I'm not even from here but I know what happens if you guys allow this to escalate in your city. I watched what happened when LA allowed it to escalate and when the police eventually retreated and allowed the city to run things on their own. There was well over 50 deaths that happened here in LA at that time. The countless amounts of fires, people who lost their businesses. At that moment, I'm trying to explain to them, that's what the future could be if you allow things to just go on as they are. You guys are going to destroy your own community. You will suffer because of that. Part of why I suffered as a child, it made it very hard for my mom. We were living right in that area so when everything got burned down, there's no work.

There's people who have very little that are going to suffer the most. You're not going to hurt the rich people or the police or who you felt were your oppressor. You're going to hurt your own self. That conversation really got through to people and helped deescalate some of the tension that was there that night. I felt like that was a real turning point for the work that I was doing. Here I was, before, showing up giving hugs at a race and now, in that moment, saying in the middle of a riot, you created thinking points for people.

Jeff: You became a first responder who was helping with conflict resolution but in a completely new and different way. You brought that to just countless and countless situations. I believe you went to Charlottesville.

Ken: Which was probably one of the most scary or traumatic situations I was in was in Charlottesville.

Jeff: Yeah. You've given a lot of people hugs that some of which you probably don't share their values and that you disagree with and don't represent a great morality. White supremacists. Homophobes. Misogynists. All along the spectrum. I guess one of my questions would be for you is is there anyone that is not deserved of a hug?

Ken: Wow. Great question. I think even the people that you think wouldn't deserve a hug probably got that way because they didn't receive hugs. They didn't feel a strong personal connection to anyone. I feel like that's what's causing so much hatred today. That's what's causing so much division and stress and mental health issues for a lot of people is when they feel they're alone or isolated.

Isolation has driven so many people to suicide. When a person feels like they're not loved, then what's the point in living? When you feel that way it makes it easier to hurt people because you don't care about yourself so then you don't care about other people either. When I'm out on this mission, it's because I wholeheartedly believe it. I truly believe that we can change the world through positive interaction. Even if it's not a hug. Let it be dialogue. Let it be just reaching across the aisle to interact with people that you might feel aren't deserving of it. People that you think are different than you. People with different belief systems. It' through that that we find common ground.

There's been people that I felt like there's no way I'm going to get along with this person and then find out that we have a similar taste in music or that we like the same sports or activities. Whatever our beliefs are that we felt divided us, when you can build your friendship on that one thing that you can stand on and tune out some of the sometimes trivial differences, that's where change happens.

I don't think that there's anyone that's undeserving of a hug. Sure, there's people that probably none of us want to hug but knowing that somebody, the right person hugging them, it can change their life and the person that's hugging them as well.

Jeff: Yeah. It takes a rare individual to find that kind of compassion and God bless you for all of the work that you're doing.

Ken: Thank you.

Jeff: Thank you for doing this interview.

Ken: Appreciate it. Thank you.

 

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