When Sara Cunningham’s son Parker came out to her as gay, when he was 21, there was no embracing. In fact, he had to tell her multiple times before she even started to listen to him, never mind accept it. “Gay” was not the life she’d pictured for him. As she struggled with this news she could have walked away and rejected him, but she didn’t. Instead, Sara took action.
She spent several months educating herself and seeking out resources including meeting other moms of gay children and getting to know members of the gay community. This journey helped her embrace him fully, but it took time and caused pain. Pain Sara regretted. So, she became a mother on a mission to ensure other children wouldn’t go through the suffering her son endured when she didn’t immediately accept him. And it started with her first pride parade.
To show her support for Parker and others, she attended a pride parade wearing a homemade “Free Mom Hugs” button. She stood on the street with open arms and hugged individuals who weren’t accepted by their parents. Her first hug was with a young woman who said it had been four years since she’d been hugged by her mom. Devasted by this, Sara vowed to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community loudly and proudly.
Sara turned her simple expression of love – a hug – into a movement that would engage allies and show an entire community they are safe, loved and accepted. The result – the creation of Free Mom Hugs. Her organization is on a mission to create allies who support the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education, conversation and – of course – hugs.
With chapters across all 50 states and initiatives in other countries, Free Mom Hugs is empowering the world to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. A library of resources helps individuals understand how to be allies. Events - Pride Parades, holiday gatherings and advocacy activities - provide an opportunity to demonstrate allyship and one-on-one conversations help those seeking to accept a member of the LGBTQ+ community to learn and grow.
“Somewhere out there someone needs us,” said Sara. “We are here to help people simply show up. And not just moms - dads, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends – anyone who is looking for a way to demonstrate their allyship and support the community. We provide those opportunities and are a loving presence that shows up where needed and when others don’t.”
Free Mom Hugs joins the journeys of those making their way with and without support at home. At events and gatherings, a Free Mom Hugs tent or table welcomes everyone with a smile, a chat and information, in addition to the sought-after hug. Volunteers are there to be the “chosen family” excited to see every visitor and to send each one off with a hug.
Because no matter what you believe, how you identify or whom you love, Free Mom Hugs says that we all are deserving of love. And that we all can give it.
Join them today and be an ally.
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