Embraces are not usually award-winning, but that’s exactly what happened with Jillian Kay’s ’23 The Hug.
While studying remotely from home in California, the Broadcast Journalism major came across The Christophers’ 33rd Annual Video Contest for College Students, which she recently won, along with its $2,000 cash prize.
“At first, the contest’s theme, ‘One Person Can Make a Difference,’ had me stumped. However, my mom had attended a work luncheon pre-pandemic where Bill Bracken was the guest speaker,” said Kay. “After hearing him speak, she was emotionally moved, and his words impacted her forever.”
After learning more, Kay also found his story heartfelt, and reached out to Bracken’s Kitchen, the nonprofit food truck founded by Bracken. After many years as a chef who fed celebrities at high-profile restaurants, he decided to create the truck to address food insecurity in California’s Orange County.
From talking with Bracken via Zoom, she heard about an interaction between Bracken and a homeless woman, Ruby. That story became The Hug. Kay also utilized provided footage, as she couldn’t visit the organization during the height of the pandemic.
“When I heard about his encounter with Ruby and her friends, I knew this was a story that could entirely change viewers’ perspectives on homelessness. Food, water, and shelter are necessities, but so are human interaction, compassion, and love. It reminds us that they are no different than we are in needing these things. After all, they are human too,” said Kay.
From making the video, Kay learned many things about herself, as well as the realities of the world we live in. She was shocked that 30 to 40 percent of our food supply is wasted, according to the USDA.
“You can have it all: fame, fortune, success. But what matters most, is how it makes you feel. ‘Having it all,’ or so it seems, isn’t always that fulfilling and does not always guarantee happiness in life. Devoting time to the service of others can change your outlook on life and be so much more rewarding,” said Kay.
Kay said she hopes people find Bracken’s story inspiring and change any negative perceptions of the homeless community.
Kay is currently part of the Emtern program in LA, interning at City Drive Studios. She’s also part of the women’s volleyball team, an executive producer for WEBN Sports, an on-camera talent contributor to WEBN, involved in EIV and Emerson Channel Sports. So you could say she knows a thing or two about seizing opportunities, and she hopes her fellow Emersonians feel the same way after learning about Bracken’s Kitchen.
With that in mind, she also wanted to help more than highlight Bracken’s Kitchen in her video. She created a GoFundMe account support Bracken’s mission.
“To jumpstart the giving, I have contributed part of my scholarship earnings. It will mean so much to me if my fellow Emersonians will join me in this effort,” said Kay.