Photo Credit: COURTESY OF HUGTRAIN - Since 2009, Arie Moyal, founder of HugTrain, has traveled the world and hugged thousands of people.2015 just started, but somebody might need a hug.

You’re in luck. The HugTrain is in Portland.

The Montreal group that brings hugs to cities across the nation stopped in Portland Friday afternoon. It will provide hugs and other social interaction around the Rose City until Monday, Jan. 5, when the train heads to Seattle.

It’s all part of the HugTrain’s sixth annual U.S. tour to break down social isolation, spread holiday cheer and provide emotional support. This time, the tour is backed up by a new HugTrain smartphone app, available soon for Android and iOS. The app is an Uber-like system that allows people to announce that they are available to give hugs in specific parts of the city. People see the announcement and seek out the hugger.

Since 2009, Arie Moyal, founder of HugTrain, has traveled the world and hugged thousands of people. “Small changes create big shifts,” Moyal says. “And I want to put the power to make small those changes in the hands of others, which is why we decided to launch the app.

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF HUGTRAIN - The new HugTrain smartphone app is sort of like Uber for hugs. It lets a person announce that he or she is available for hugs in a specific area.“Financial difficulties, family issues, seasonal affective disorder and social isolation means that the holidays are particularly stressful for many of us.”

The tour began Dec. 4 and wraps up Jan. 12 in New York City, after stops in San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Chicago. Besides dispensing hugs, the two-week national tour is encouraging people to donate to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and To Write Love on Her Arms, organizations that aid people with mental illnesses.

In each city, Moyal moves around the area with a "Free Hugs" sign offering hugs to passersby. After the tour, Moyal works as a brand engagement strategist who helps businesses build relationships online and in the brick-and-mortar world through brand identity development, employee engagement, customer experience planning and social media.

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