NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – On a hot summer day, a man stands out in the sun on a bridge, with a simple mission.
Billy Park of Northampton travels the country with a goal of bringing people closer together during a time that he said, many are divided.
“It’s a tough world right now and there’s so much division. I’m just trying to bridge that gap,” Park told 22News.
He tries to do this, with hugs.
“My slogan is shrink the divide one huggable American at a time,” he said.
22News met him on Friday at the bike bridge between Hadley and Northampton over the Connecticut River. He holds a sign that says ‘Free Hugs’. He told 22News, “hugs make the best bridges.”
On the back of his sign he has the number of hugs he’s given in a week. Roughly 210 when he showed 22News on Friday. He said he loves listening to people’s stories.
“I get into some very serious conversations. I’ve talked to transgender people. I’ve talked to racists. And I just talk about human love,” he said.
Spreading his motto of Hug It Out America, Park has traveled to a few states including New Hampshire, Oregon and California.
He said he’s talked to many people who have very different views than himself, but they can always find something in common – humanity.
“Your kids, sports, the weather, all those little things we have in common. We may not agree politically but there are so many other things that we have in common,” he said.
This summer he is traveling the East Coast with his two daughters, 10-years-old and 12-years-old to continue what he does. He said he does this for them.
“I see there’s not much kindness to each other and I want to make sure that she’s raised in a world that’s kind,” Park told 22News.
Park said he never forces hugs on someone, if they want to just chat, he’s there to listen. He greets everyone who passes him in a welcoming Southern accent and lets them start the hug.
“Making that person feel special and loved, then they’ll do the same for some stranger. That’s what I want people to do, reach out beyond their bubble,” he said.
Park and his daughter’s travels this summer are taking them to Connecticut, New York, Washington D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia to spread the love. He started a GoFundMe to help pay for their trip.