There is a reason why hundreds of people encircle Lake Osceola and hold hands each April. It’s not some cultish ritual; this is Hug the Lake, a University of Miami tradition.
“We do this to honor and recognize various sustainable and eco-friendly practices,” said Lindsey Woods, assistant director of the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development. “While it’s a very short event, it’s very meaningful and impactful just to remind our campus community essentially that Earth Day is something that we should care about … Our ecosystems on our campus are something that we should care about.”
It’s been 13 years since Random Acts of Kindness, a UM student organization created to “brighten the lives of students,” presented its idea of surrounding Lake Osceola to celebrate Earth Day. When members of the Butler Center heard the idea, they loved it.
Hug the Lake then became an annual event, where approximately 700 members of the campus community gather for a symbolic hug and singing of the UM Alma Mater.
In the past two years, the tradition has expanded to include an educational component. The Butler Center has partnered with Green U and UM Student Government’s Energy and Conservation Organization Agency. Both organizations have focused on bringing in various community businesses and local agencies that have some environmental or sustainable practice as their mission. These local businesses and agencies table out on the Lakeside Patio in conjunction with Hug the Lake.
The student committee has also introduced various eco-friendly activities that take place before Hug the Lake. This year, one of the booths will ask students, “What is trash?” and educate them on which receptacle certain items should go into; another will teach students how to turn old T-shirts into reusable grocery bags.
Alec Jimenez, the outgoing chair of SG’s ECO Agency said this year and every year, Hug the Lake is about celebrating the environment.
“We are partnering with the Hug the Lake Committee to celebrate the Earth, Lake Osceola and all the efforts individuals and organizations have done to protect their environments throughout the year,” Jimenez said.
For junior Stefanie Getz, this event is an opportunity for students to take a few minutes out of their day to appreciate the beauty of the nature around them.
“Since we do the event on campus, and we have such a beautiful campus, it also resonates with students because we’re living in this place with such amazing nature,” said Getz, an environmental engineering major. “I admire the lake, UM’s campus and the nature around me all the time, and I think this event helps other people to remember to do the same.”
Woods said the goal is always to increase the number of participants. With the expansion of newer campus areas, such as the Fate Bridge, there’s an opportunity for more people to come out and participate in the event.
“I could very well see it turning into a 1,000-person event,” Woods said. “And how amazing would that be?”
To Woods, this is a unique UM tradition that is unlike any other event on campus. It’s not only an educational opportunity to learn more about Earth Day but also a program of community. She said Hug the Lake gives students an opportunity to hold hands with a stranger in celebration of something meaningful.
“At the end of the day, it’s still very representative,” Woods said. “We’re one U, we’re one campus community, all coming together for one common purpose.”
Hug the Lake will be held 12:05-12:20 p.m. April 20. Eco-friendly activities will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while the “Green Fair” will end at 3 p.m. The Butler Center gives students an opportunity to sign up for a preferred zone on OrgSync but also encourages people to come even if they haven’t registered.