Squish Days bring hippo, shark, unicorn hugs to residents of nursing home during coronavirus pandemic

SEE: Families embrace loved ones through inflatable costumes during ‘Squish Day’

STEPHENS CITY, Va. — A hippo, a shark, a pink unicorn and a couple of Minions showed up at a Virginia assisted living facility. No, the staff didn’t increase the residents’ medications. The characters are part of Squish Day.

Barbara Putnam, the managing director at Fox Trail in Stephens City, Virginia, came up with the idea after she remembered her son’s inflatable T-rex costume after trying to figure out a way to make it safe for residents to hug their families, the Winchester Star reported.

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The costumes cover the wearer from head to ankle, only leaving their feet exposed.

The T-rex’s arms were too short, so she found seven other costumes that would work.

The costumes are sanitized between encounters and the wearer also puts on a face mask, gloves and other personal protection equipment for a secondary layer of protection, the Star reported.

Linnea Bentz was the guinea pig for the first Squish Day, named for the squishiness of the costume. She flew in from Salt Lake City, jumped in a hippo costume, and hugged her mother Karin Rein. Rein also wore a face mask and gloves. She cried during the neverending hug.

When your mom's heart and soul need a hug more then anything, you go through any length possible to make it happen.

Posted by Fox Trail Assisted Living Stephens City on Saturday, May 16, 2020

Other families are contacting the home to schedule their Squish Days. It is a 48-hour turn around from a hug until when another family can use a costume because it has to be hand-washed, disinfected and air-dried, the Star reported.

FILE PHOTO: Costumes like these are being used at a Virginia personal care home to help residents have a physical connection with their family members despite the coronavirus pandemic.
FILE PHOTO: Costumes like these are being used at a Virginia personal care home to help residents have a physical connection with their family members despite the coronavirus pandemic. (EMILY ELCONIN/AFP via Getty Images)