OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — When the word hugs is part of an organization’s mission statement, how does it continue to do the good work of helping parents accept their LGBTQIA+ children—and help LGBTQIA+ people accept themselves? This is the question that has come up again and again for Free Mom Hugs since March 2020, as its most public-facing activity—offering its eponymous free mom hugs at Pride events all over the country—has become unsafe since the onset of COVID-19.
“Our goal has always been to encourage the LGBTQIA+ community we serve and send a message to the world they are worth celebrating,” said Sara Cunningham, founder of Free Mom Hugs. “This has been even more critical during the pandemic, when many people have felt so isolated. We had to get creative in our outreach efforts to continue to support the community we love so much.”
But like so many in the pandemic era, Free Mom Hugs has adapted. This May 22, to celebrate the birthday of famed San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk—one of the first openly gay elected officials in American history—Free Mom Hugs will stage a new kind of event in 13 American states. Members of the nonprofit’s chapters in Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, California, Arkansas, Vermont, Tennessee, Virginia, New Jersey, and Oklahoma will decorate cars for socially distanced “Pride Rides” that will support and celebrate the LGBTQ community.
“This is a way for our volunteers to engage in a COVID safe way and still show love and support to the community,” said Karrie Fletcher, Executive Director of Free Mom Hugs. “We’ve had Pride Rides in California and Kentucky in the past that have been successful.”
Pride Rides will begin simultaneously across the country at 3 p.m. Eastern (noon Pacific) and will last approximately one hour. Zoom interviews with Free Mom Hugs founder Sara Cunningham as well as local leaders will be available in advance.