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This Mother Strives to Change the World, One Hug at a Time

  • May 07, 2021

It all started with one mom and one hug. This mom was Sara Cunningham, who lives in Oklahoma City and is married with two children, Travis, 37, and Parker, 32.

“Parker is gay,” she said. “I specify this because he’s the reason we’re having this conversation.”

As a Christian, Ms. Cunningham, 58, fervently rejected her son being gay when he first came out to her 11 years ago at age 21. After much spiritual searching, she embraces him fully, and said she doesn’t want any child to suffer what she put her son through. “There’s a mom out there like me then who needs a mom like me now,” Ms. Cunningham said.

That was why she founded the nonprofit group Free Mom Hugs in July 2018.

After reading stories about L.G.B.T.Q. people whose families refused to attend their wedding, Ms. Cunningham had posted on Facebook one night that she would happily be a stand-in mom at any wedding where she was needed. By the next morning, her post had gone viral.

Under the Free Mom Hugs banner, Ms. Cunningham, who was ordained in 2016 by Neill Coffman, pastor of the Expressions Church in Oklahoma City, now performs and attends weddings, writes books, speaks at various events, organizes local chapters of Mom Hugs, and, yes, gives out a lot of hugs. (“Until we can hug again, we’re going beyond the hug,” she said. For example, they send out care packages to people in need of support.)

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