Wishes, dreams and love were delivered in early December thanks to our generous supporters and with help from our friends at UPS. After seeing the care packages we sent out over the summer on social media, UPS was so moved by the gesture they wanted to collaborate with us to send out more packages.
Our care packages have come to symbolize so much for us at Free Mom Hugs this year because of the impact COVID had on our ability to connect with people in person. Our main goal has always been to be a loving presence to the LGBTQIA+ community by showing up at Pride Parades and other events to give hugs. This year we couldn’t do that so sending care packages became our way of connecting to show our love and support. We needed a way to keep our message going even during an uncertain year.
Earlier this year, board member and mama bear, Jan Pezant was sending care packages to her son as a means to show her support and love when she couldn’t be with him. Our board president, Lindsey Miller also received a wonderful care package from her mother-in-law. The two acts of kindness planted the seed for us to send out our own care packages to the LGBTQIA+ community to show that we still love and support them during the pandemic.
We created an online application process for people to register themselves or a loved one to send a package. Names were randomly selected from almost 1200 applicants and we sent 30 care packages to our beautiful friends.
We had an amazing response to the care packages and our followers wanted to know how they could help. We started a matching gift campaign provided by one of our generous supporters which provided a way for us to plan to send 100 care packages. We were in the process of preparing to send the packages out when we heard from UPS.
UPS loved Sara and Parker’s story and they also loved what Free Mom Hugs was doing to impact the world. As a part of their annual Wishes Delivered project, they wanted to highlight their story and the care package program. UPS also wanted to keep this project a secret from Sara so it could be a surprise.
Behind the scenes we began to work frantically to do our part to get all the merchandise, boxes, and recipients names together without letting Sara know. We created a story about the project that led Sara to believe she was 1 of 5 finalists. What she didn’t know is that she WAS the finalist. A few weeks before the video shoot was to take place at Sara’s house, Oklahoma City was ravaged by an historic ice storm leaving most of the city without power for 14 days, including Sara’s home. But in true Free Mom Hugs fashion, electricity was restored the day before the crew was scheduled to arrive! The two day shoot included a crew of 15 and also a COVID representative who was in charge of monitoring everyone with safety precautions. It was an incredible experience!
As we began to pack the contents for the 100 boxes, Sara still had no idea what was in store for her that day. Behind the scenes, UPS had been ordering the care package items for an additional 300 care packages to be sent out. They had reserved a warehouse for the contents to be packaged and loaded by UPS volunteers to send to the LGBTQIA+ on our behalf.
On the second day of filming the video, Parker was taken to the warehouse with all the boxes and volunteers for a practice run and provided direction on how he surprise his mom. Once the plan was in place, Sara was brought to the warehouse under the guise that she was going to film additional b-roll footage around the city. When she arrived at the warehouse, she began to be suspicious about what was going on. That’s when Parker leaned in to tell her that UPS had chosen her story and the Free Mom Hugs organization for the 2020 Wishes Delivered project! The door to the warehouse was raised to reveal the UPS volunteers and the additional 300 packages being put together!
Sara was speechless and overcome with emotion at the sight of the additional care packages knowing she could reach even more people in the LGBTQIA+ community. The volunteers had worked a regular shift and then came to the warehouse to volunteer their time for this project. They cheered and held signs as the door was opened. Sara eventually made her way around to every volunteer thanking them for their time. After all the contents were packed in boxes, the UPS truck was filled from top to bottom with Free Mom Hugs care packages.
We soon began receiving pictures and messages on social media about how much the packages meant to people. Some of the comments we received:
“My baby girl got one today and cried while opening it.”
“One arrived for my kiddo today. They were surprised and thrilled. They said, ‘Now I have a gay bear and a gay mug and a gay face mask!’. Thank you for sending them love.”
“The cookbook was my favorite. I spent my teens in foster care so I don’t have recipes passed down. I love when people share theirs, makes me feel like family. Didn’t think one box would make me so happy.”
“I just recently came out to my family and was very worried about their reaction. I’m beyond thankful for the package. It was beautiful. Thank you for all you do.”
Our hearts were so touched by all of the responses. People were feeling loved and accepted all across the country! It was such a beautiful thing to witness. UPS released the Wishes Delivered video in early December and it took our breath away. They did such an amazing job with Sara and Parker’s story including showing the mission of Free Mom Hugs and also our home state of Oklahoma. We hope it encourages others to share their stories and have conversations that will create a safe space for those in the LGBTQ community. As Parker said in the video about coming out to his mom:
“We had to learn about each other or we were going to lose each other.”
Until we can be at events together and hug again, we will continue to provide programs like sending care packages to remind our LGBTQIA+ loved ones that they are not alone. This card was provided in each care package sent out through the Wishes Delivered program and we hope it will serve as a reminder for you today:
“You are Loved. We can’t be there to hug you in person so we’re doing the next best thing, sending you a box filled with love and care for body, mind and soul. Just know that we’re proud of you, we value you and we love you.”