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Going Beyond the Hug

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By Sara Cunningham , Executive Director & CEO of Free Mom Hugs

When I was a child, my mother called me “Goose,” I am certain now more than ever this was because of my natural ability to put my nose into other people’s business. I needed to know what was going on, if everyone was ok, and most importantly when we could all get together again. Community was everything to me then, and it certainly is my focus every day now.

My Journey to becoming an ally began with the words from my child, “Mom I’ve met someone, and I need you to be okay about it.” I didn’t take the news very well, and I said and did some things I regret even to this day.

I had to re-examine my religion as it suggested that I needed to choose between my faith and my child. I discovered, with the help of some others who came alongside me, that what I believed about LGBTQIA+ people came from a few verses in the Bible that had been misinterpreted and misunderstood. From there, my journey went from the church to the local pride parade wearing a homemade button and offering Free Mom Hugs or High Fives.

Picture from Sara’s original viral Facebook post.

I wasn’t the first mom to show up at a Pride Parade offering love and hope and hugs, but I did create a non-profit based on that experience. After my post about being a stand-in mom at same-sex weddings went viral; what we have seen has been a movement of love and celebration for the LGBTQIA+ Community.

It has been the most amazing gift dropped in our laps as far as getting the message out to moms, dads, educators, and churches that NOW is the time to get educated, to step out of fear and ignorance and come out of their own closets to speak out on behalf of their children.

But what has been even more beautiful is the community, the connection and healing that is taking place in the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth and adults due to the thousands of compassionate, empowered people who are responding and offering support, birthday cards, words of affirmation, homemade blankets, and other simple but very important small gestures such as referring to a transgender person by their chosen name.

We also recently had a follower on Instagram post about their 11-year-old child who attempted suicide because of intense scrutiny and bullying from family and school. We noticed the post and got our group of “Mama Bears to the Rescue” their address and when the young girl came home from the hospital, she was surprised by dozens of cards, stuffed animals and blankets from Mamas all across the country. These small acts of kindness, this kind of loving presence in the life of that child and her Mama delivered a message of love and hope that was life-changing for them.

Picture of Jamie Lee Curtis and Sara Cunningham. Jamie Lee Curtis will be portraying Sara’s journey as a proud Mama Bear in an upcoming Hollywood film. 

This is where we are going Beyond The Hug. We are supporting homeless youth with Free Mom Hugs Hoodies. We are helping our transgender friends fund legal fees for gender name changes, emotional and financial support after top- surgeries; we travel to small-town colleges and encourage their GSA’s. We are educating on behalf of our communities in schools and in the workplace. We are advocating on behalf of mental health awareness, ending workplace discrimination, and putting an end to once and for all the mental abuse that is conversion therapy.

So many young LGBTQIA+ people are hurting from family rejection and rigid religious beliefs. This is why I support LGBTQIA+ ministries like Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries who, every day, affirm & inspire bold loving leaders to Proclaim the gospel in the world. We may not be able to change every heart and mind – we may not be able to solve most problems – but one thing we can all do is be a loving presence in the life of LGBTQIA+ people. Anyone reading this can send a card, speak words of affirmation, get together with someone for a coffee, give a small gift, use someone’s chosen name, give a hug. These are things we can all do. 

My hope is that my journey will inspire all of you to want to be a loving presence in the life of LGBTQIA+ people.

Together I believe we can change the world, so it is a kinder, safer, more loving place for all people to live.

Love wins. Hugs and high fives help too. 


Bio: Sara Cunningham is the Founder of Free Mom Hugs and has a heart as deep and wide as the ocean, and a commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community that matches it. Sara has very recently been featured on the Today Show, CNN, and has been viewed by millions on social media. What does Free Mom Hugs mean to her? “For me, it just represents unconditional love,” she said. “Everyone needs love and understanding from their mother.”

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