Boy, 5, Creates ‘Hugging Machine’ So Teacher With Cancer Can Safely Hug Her Class

by : Emily Brown on : 25 Mar 2021 14:51
Boy, 5, Creates 'Hugging Machine' So Teacher With Cancer Can Safely Hug Her Class@kstrom13/Twitter

A five-year-old boy has warmed the hearts of millions after creating a ‘hugging machine’ for his kindergarten teacher who has stage four metastatic breast cancer. 

Keri Stromski was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, but she continued to work as a kindergarten teacher and during the coronavirus pandemic turned to online teaching to continue reaching her students.


As the outbreak left many of us unable to make physical contact with those we care about, one of Keri’s students, five-year-old Avery, set about trying to overcome the obstacle to ensure his teacher could get the hugs she deserved.

You can watch the ‘hug machine’ in action below:

Avery’s mum, Cathie Green, noticed families making homemade ‘hug machines’ using thick plastic protectors, so helped her son create one for Keri in case the teacher wanted to use it for contact while still social distancing.


The device is made up of a plastic sheet that separates the two huggers, and each participant uses their own disposable bags to stay safe while embracing through the curtain.

After successfully constructing the device, Avery and his family delivered it to Keri at her home in Long Island, New York.

Speaking about the device on Good Morning America, Cathie said, ‘[Keri] was overwhelmed. She screamed to her husband and her kids, ‘Come out here, look at what they made me … I’m going to get to hug one of my students!’ as ABC News reports.


Cathie continued:

She’s an amazing person and I think she needs the kids as much as the kids need her. This was the least I could do after all she’s done for our babies.

Keri praised the creation on Twitter, sharing a video of it in use and writing: ‘When one of your virtual kindergarten families know it’s been a rough week with SBRT radiation, chemo & stage four mbc, they bring a hugging machine they built so I can stay safe and get all the hugs I want.’


Cathie described the kindergarten teacher as a ‘superhero’, and discussed how she often includes puppets in her classes and wears coloured wigs to make her students smile.

Keri is currently receiving treatment at Stony Brook University Hospital and hopes to return to teaching after the spring break, though her kindergartners are under the impression she’s actually on a ‘super secret mission to save a new puppet.’

The teacher described the hospital staff as her ‘family’, and told GMA that while the cancer ward is the worst place to be, it is ‘full of the most amazing and wonderful people’.


In honour of Keri’s battle with cancer and her ongoing dedication to teaching, her local community hopes to hold a parade for the teacher, with attendees wearing blue and white to represent her school district.

Keri said:

It’s to celebrate how resilient we all are … especially the children.

The work everyone has done is amazing – from the families, students, teachers, custodians, aides, secretaries, nurses, cafeteria, administration, union and BOE (Board of Education). I love my town and my district and the Blue Waves are the best people you’ll ever meet.

As well as helping to educate young minds, Keri is an advocate for stage four cancer research and has raised $16,000 in two years for her own oncologist’s research. She also supports the Stony Brook Cancer Center Research Fund.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Health, Cancer, New York, Now, Teacher


ABC News and 1 other
  1. ABC News

    Kindergartner and his parents create 'hugging machine' for teacher fighting cancer

  2. Keri Stromski/Twitter