Warm Hugs helps spread hope and love to immigrant children in the Miami Valley

Oakwood 8th graders Cecille Figueroa Narvaez and Dasha Penas Johnson hand out blankets to Hispanic immigrant children at a recent event. (WKEF/WRGT)

OAKWOOD, Ohio (WRGT/WKEF) - Two local eighth graders are learning lessons far beyond the classroom by starting a non-profit to spread love and hope to Hispanic immigrant children in the Miami Valley.

Cecille Figueroa Narvaez and Dasha Penas Johnson are Oakwood students and say they were inspired to help kids are after seeing some living in difficult conditions.

"I think we've always just known that we've been so lucky to have everything we have and we both just really appreciate all the opportunities that are thrown our way," Penas Johnson said. "And for us, helping people just brings us joy."

"We're both Hispanic and we can both speak Spanish and we both have the same desire to help people as much as we can," said Figueroa Narvaez.

So the two best friends started a non-profit called Warm Hugs, with the purpose of symbolically hugging these children through a cozy blanket that will not only keep them warm, but will also make them feel loved.

In the past year, the friends have donated hundreds of blankets through churches and other local organizations. The hope is to 800 this year with the help of companies and schools willing to do blanket drives.

"Just spreading as many blankets and the message that there's people here who really care about you and want you to do well and succeed," Penas Johnson said. "Just that message of hope is always going to be our goal."

The young women say seeing the reaction from the children who receive a blanket is magical.

"Definitely giving the blankets to the kids is amazing," Figueroa Narvaez said. "Just a simple blanket lights up their day. Their faces just smile."

Warm Hugs has also partnered with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas/Mexico border to distribute blanket donations to children who have recently arrived in the United States.

"Giving it to them, you might underestimate it but it might be a huge deal," Figueroa Narvaez said. "It might be a motivator and might be a symbol to keep going."

If you'd like to donate, you can do so online through the Dayton Foundation here

Or if you'd prefer to send a check, you can send it to:

The Dayton Foundation

c/o Warm Hugs Fund

40 N Main Street, Suite 500

Dayton, OH 45423

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