Students raise upward of $3,000 during Christmas Wish fundraiser

Carly Robertson, known for ‘Free Hugs’ on campus, will use funds to pay debts

Carly Robertson offering her regular “Free Hugs” in the Queen’s ARC.

For someone who comforts students in their free time as a hobby, Carly Robertson is even more cheerful than usual. “I was like WHOAAAAAAAA! WOWW! That’s fast!” she wrote to The Journal. 

This Christmas, Robertson — known on campus as the “Free Hugs” lady — will be receiving nearly $3,000 after a friend and Queen’s student heard of her financial troubles and started a fundraising campaign to help her pay off outstanding debts. 

The initial goal of $1,800 was shattered within 8 hours of GoFundMe and Tilt pages being posted and shared on the “Overheard at Queen’s” Facebook page on Nov. 19. Robertson’s face is easily recognizable to many students in the ARC who have seen her in the last few years proudly holding up her ‘Free Hugs’ sign. 

“I love spreading love and joy to you guys,” she said in a video posted to Overheard six hours after the initial post. “And I’m just really thankful. I wish I could give you guys all an air hug!”

Robertson was born four months pre-mature and has since been blind in her right eye, with limited visibility in her left. She has limited hearing and communicates by using hearing aids and reading lips. 

She has recently started a personal business of teaching sign language, but over the past few months she had started to take cash loans to supplement the $788 she gets in disability support per month, according to the description on GoFundMe.

“It’s just a big burden lifted off to get out of this stupid debt. I’m just really thankful.” Robertson continued in her video. 

“I got home around five hours [after the campaign was posted] and was surprised to see all the money I needed was raised plus was so blessed to see many still gave, and kept giving even after what I needed!” she wrote to The Journal.

Harjaap Singh, Comm ’17, organized the initiative. He said he got to know Robertson the same way as so many other Queen’s students: by being offered a free hug. After attending some of her sign language classes, and after nearly half a year of friendship, she opened up to him about her financial struggles.

“$780 is nothing at all,” he said of her disability payments. It was this fact that sparked the idea for Carly’s Christmas Wish. The GoFundMe page has since been closed, but the Tilt account is still accepting donations and has raised another $300 on top of the existing $3,200. 

A portion of the funds raised on the GoFundMe page go to pay the service fee for the website. 

Taking on a more serious tone, Singh stressed that the campaign was solely intended to help lift the burden of a friend and a cherished staple in the Queen’s community. 

“One of her concerns was that ‘I’ve been doing this for months, I really don’t want people to start thinking I’m doing this for money. That would just ruin everything I’ve done.” 

He was relieved with the overwhelmingly positive reaction the campaign garnered from the Queen’s community online. “Because Overheard can be negative a lot of times, right?” he said.

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