Free Mom Hugs Tour 2020 goes digital
by Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Free Mom Hugs (FMH) was preparing for its fourth National Free Mom Hugs Tour from Oklahoma City across the country to Washington, DC. They were planning to celebrate Pride season there with all 50 of their national chapters, but the COVID-19 guidelines changed their plans.
“It about ripped my heart out when we had to make the decision to postpone the physical tour,” said Sara Cunningham, Oklahoma City resident and founder of FMH who said she loves and looks forward to every aspect of doing the tours.
“Driving the Jeep, meeting our Chapter Leaders, encouraging parents and pouring into the community we love,” she said. “I believe the tour is one of the most significant parts of FMH. The physical connections made along the way are lasting and empowering.
But good news prevails for the organization, despite the obstacles.
“We have a tour committee in place dedicated to the mission, and together they put together one heck of a virtual tour,” Cunningham said. “But make no mistake, we will have a physical tour when we get the all-clear. It will be a follow up of the virtual tour. OKC-DC. And yes, it will be EPIC.”
FMH’s Virtual Tour will highlight powerful women, mama-bear activists, members of the community and allies who continue to engage and advocate to protect members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Cunningham said the changes FMH has made to their online presence and capabilities would serve to improve and expand future outreach.
“We will utilize this new ability to provide education and resources on a broader scale,” she said. “Podcasts, webinars, blogs, and improved education resources will all become available on our website and social channels. Our hope is that not only will we be able to reach parents and allies better, but also we will be able to connect with more LGBTQ+ community themselves who need to know they are supported and celebrated.”
For an organization who has literally branded themselves as huggers, COVID-19 may change their approach at Pride events, or anywhere they are celebrating acceptance for LGBTQ+ kids by parents and the community. The organization’s leader said they will always follow guidelines.
“Like Ellen says, ‘Do what smart people tell you to do,’” Cunningham said. “We will continue to trust and follow the national guidelines provided by top health officials. If that means wearing a blow-up dinosaur costume to get those hugs and high-fives in, that’s what we’ll do.”
She said safety is their number one priority.
They have been very creative in their outreach efforts since “stay at home” guidelines came out.
“Our Chapter Leaders have really risen to the occasion, utilizing every aspect of our social media platforms,” Cunningham said. “We’ve seen great healing and connection take place. In fact, our Arizona chapter played a pivotal role in organizing the very first virtual Arizona Pride Event. It was a huge success for the community.
“We have mom’s making phone calls, sending cards and letters in the form of snail mail. Connection means everything to FMH. Add to this our National Board, who has been very active behind the scenes working in collaboration with Barefoot Wines, HBO and the Virtual Tour.”
Tune in to the national tour by following Free Mom Hugs on their social sites where you will find information on attending. Also, visit www.freemomhugs.org.
Overview of the FMH Virtual National Tour:
● The Virtual Tour will be held on Sunday, May 10 (Mother’s Day) through Sunday, May 17, 2020.
● The Virtual Tour will feature conversations with heroes and activists through education and advocacy segments.
● These conversations will include messages of hope and love for our LBGTQIA+ communities.
● Discussions will highlight affirming parents that model ways for families to support LGBTQIA+ family members.
● During each morning of the Virtual Tour, FMH will feature chapter leaders from virtual tour featured cities on our social media sites.
● Evening events will consist of an hour-long program, including interviews and panel discussions hosted by Sara Cunningham and her son Parker. Music and performances from artists who are members of the community and allies; and a fun, daily wrap-up/virtual happy hour with Sara and Parker.
● The Virtual Tour will utilize Zoom webinars and ReStream. We intend to pre-record messages, interviews, and panel discussions.
● The Virtual Tour will be shown on our social media platforms, including IGTV, Facebook, and Twitter.
The Gayly. 5/3/2020 @ 6:00 p.m. CST.