A local company is in the business of providing helping hands...for a hug.
         
Science has shown the benefits of hugs and human contact, but for those who don't have someone to reach out and touch, there are professional cuddlers ready with open arms. 

Lealyn Papaya has always been an affectionate person. In fact she has been giving out free hugs every month in Waikiki, since she moved here 6 years ago. 

"Its fun to share a human connection with a stranger when you normally wouldn't see that," said Papaya.

Over the years she realized many people miss out on that human connection.

"My heart goes out to people that don't get extended touch."

So three and a half years ago she started Aloha Cuddle Company, where people can hire professional cuddlers to get that human contact.  

"Sometimes we lay side by side holding hands, sometimes we just spoon. Some people like to watch TV and be cuddled. It is literally just laying there holding someone for an extended period of time," stated Papaya.

 Before the cuddling begins, there is a meet and greet with potential clients.

"I learn their reason for needing it. Whether they are widowed, physically disabled or socially awkward," said Papaya. 

"Right now the age group of our clients is 20s-40s. There is a lot of military people, which is great because they don't have family out here," said Aloha Cuddle Company co-owner Celeste Indvik.

 Celeste learned about the benefits of touch through her full-time job as a nurse, and uses that nurturing as a cuddler.

"It means everything to me to provide support and provide care. This is just another way for me to do that in a whole different way," added Indvik.

When it comes time to cuddle, there is a designated area set up in Palolo. Cuddlers will also meet with clients at other locations including homes, parks, or even the mall. They are happy to provide hand holding, hugging and lots of listening, but some things are off-limits.

"Its not a sexual service. There won't be any kissing. We're not going to be hanging out outside of this. We're not going to be texting," added Papaya.  

The business has been steadily growing, with Celeste and Lealyn each averaging one cuddle a week. 

But cuddling doesn't come cheap. It costs a dollar a minute. Although you can get a discount on a double cuddle, which costs $80 for an hour.
 
"Physical touch is a human need and if you have the funds you can reach out to a professional, just like you would for anything else," said Papaya.

Aloha Cuddle Company hired a male cuddler this summer, and all three are happy to hug and cuddle guys or girls. They'd also like to expand their services for geriatric patients who would benefit from being hugged or having their hands held.