May 20, 2015

Marblehead Students Win Prestigious 2015 Mass ALFA Volunteer Excellence Award

Talia and Olivia Hazlett were honored at the Mass ALFA (Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Association) 25th anniversary awards dinner on March 18. The two sisters won the 2015 Mass ALFA Volunteer Excellence Award for their innovative “Virtual Hugs” project, which connects residents at Woodbridge Estates Assisted Living and Aviv Skilled Nursing in Peabody to family members throughout the country – and throughout the world.
“We are so proud of Talia and Olivia,” states Megin Hemmerling, Executive Director of Woodbridge Estates. “Their hard work, creativity and perseverance are truly impressive.” She added, “The “Virtual Hugs” program is an amazing experience for our residents and their families.”
Talia Hazlett and her friend Maeve Sherwood, 8th graders at Marblehead Veteran’s Middle School, started “Virtual Hugs” in 2014. They raised money through the teen initiative “Do Something” ( to purchase an iPad and facilitate conversations/“Virtual Hugs” between grandchildren and great grandchildren who could not visit face-to-face. In 2015, Olivia, a junior at Marblehead High, took over the project. To date, Olivia has helped the residents connect with families in eight states as well as Italy and the Netherlands. It is remarkable for these families to “visit” virtually — an experience that will be remembered by family members for years to come.
Additionally, Olivia Hazlett recently received the Derek Sheckman Award from the North Shore teen initiative (NSTI). Given to a Jewish high school junior, the award will provide seed money and offer guidance for the continuation and expansion of the program. Olivia also hopes to get other teens involved in this project.
Olivia and Talia Hazlett are the daughters of Leslie and David Hazlett of Marblehead. For more information about the “Virtual Hugs” program, please email Leslie Hazlett at or call (978) 471-5100 x 5153.
Talia and Olivia Hazlett after winning the prestigious 2015 Mass ALFA “Volunteer Excellence Award” on May 18.