First National Free Mom Hugs Pride Ride

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On Saturday, May 22, 2021, we celebrated the birthday of LGBTQ icon, Harvey Milk with our first annual Free Mom Hugs Pride Ride event. All across the country, our chapters took to the streets to create Pride Ride caravans in their cities to show love to our LGBTQ+ family and friends. They created signs, decorated their cars, and with music playing and bubbles flying, they brought joy and smiles around the country.

Pride Rides became our alternative to Pride events during the pandemic of 2020 giving hope to our chapter leaders and friends. Even though we were not allowed to hug, we could still share the movement of Free Mom Hugs from a safe, social distance. After seeing how much our leaders loved this new way to show their advocacy and unconditional love, we didn’t see a reason to end them.  So, for our first Free Mom Hug national event, we decided to celebrate the beginning of Pride Season with one big birthday party.

With over 30 Pride Rides scheduled, the event brought many of our volunteers and Chapter Leaders together for the first time in over a year. Everyone had the most amazing, uplifting time spreading love and joy down city streets, past cafe’s, around parks and through local neighborhoods. We even had Pride Rides going through Hollywood, California and The Castro in San Fransisco, where celebrations were happening to honor their hometown hero, Harvey Milk. Denise is San Francisco told us,

“My foot was shaking on the brake at one point as I lead our team. I was so full of adrenaline and love and happy feelings!”

Our SanFrancisco leader, Denise in The Castro District

There were countless stories of people smiling, cheering, clapping, even jumping in line with the caravans to follow  them to the end. One story out of Bakersfield, CA came from our Chapter leader Kelly who said,

California Leader, Kelly with her son at the Bakersfield Pride Ride.

“We had a beautiful lesbian couple see us, make a u-turn and follow us all the way to the end. They told us their mom’s weren’t accepting and we hugged them and they cried. It was just as I remembered it – so magical to give someone something they’ve been wanting for so long.”

Sara Cunningham with Norman Mayor Breea Clark

In Norman, Oklahoma, Founder Sara Cunningham was able to participate, bringing the Free Mom Hugs Jeep, with Parker, and Executive Director Karrie Fletcher. They also grabbed special guest, Mayor Breea Clark, to ride along who brought LGBTQ+ protections to the first city in our home state of Oklahoma. They had a great time driving through historic Norman and around The University of Oklahoma campus.

One thing that we weren’t expecting, was the sheer joy of our volunteers to get to see each other again and feel a sense of purpose after a tough year of limited activities. Many reported to National after the event how much their souls needed this day. Some even referred to it as a family reunion.

“I just have to say that  today’s event gave me sense of purpose I haven’t felt in a really long time.The kids there were amazing. My cup runneth over.” – Maggie

” I had several tearful, grateful moments throughout when I thought about us ALL doing this at the same time throughout the US. It was overwhelming.” – Shelley

“My Phoenix team was so excited when they realized that not only were there so many happening, but we were all starting around the same time!” – Shannon

Shannon with Sara and our Arizona chapter

“One of the best things was finally meeting some of my new volunteers in person. We have been chatting on Facebook but to give that hug and be instant friends was amazing. We ended up doing our route twice because we had so much fun! Can’t wait to do it again. I love you and can’t believe I get to be a part of such an amazing group.” – Kara

“I’m so humbled to have been a part of today and so proud of how beautifully receptive my town was.” – Jennifer

We are thrilled at the response we received from around the country. We had caravans with over 30 cars, and caravans with as little as 1 car showing the LGBTQIA+ community they are loved and celebrated with Pride! The  hashtag #FreeMomHugsPrideRide  helped us document this amazing event on social media. Do a quick search and you’ll find joy in all the incredible pictures and videos.

Our chapter leaders have been faithful to stay connected through a very difficult and challenging year. Founder Sara Cunningham is grateful that so many fierce mama bears are sharing the vision and the mission of Free Mom Hugs. Her heart would be to join every event. But since that isn’t possible, we created “Flat Sara’s” to send in Pride Ride Care Packages to our leaders!

Free Mom Hugs continues to grow across the country and we are even being recognized around the world. We really are making a difference in the lives and families of LGBTQIA+ persons. We are making the world a kinder, safer place for all.

To join the work we are doing, check out our website to donate or get involved as a volunteer:  freemomhugs.org

“We empower the world to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education and conversation. And yes, we still give hugs “

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