MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There may be rain this weekend, but we won’t need it to see rainbows.
It’s the yearly Twin Cities Pride celebration. As many as 400,000 visitors will come to Minneapolis for the festival, held in Loring Park.
One of the organizations that will be out in full force this weekend is a group called Free Mom Hugs. The Minnesota chapter popped up about two months ago, joining a national network of huggers started by an Oklahoma mom whose journey to accept her gay son started a national movement of love.
“I just was hooked from the first hug,” said Laura Evans of Minnesota Free Mom Hugs.
It’s a simple service these moms are offering: Free hugs to anyone who needs them.
“Who doesn’t like a big hug?” said member Tammy Nelson.
“We don’t let go first, so these hugs sometimes go on for a long time,” Evans said.
But the reason why runs deep.
“I wasn’t horrible when my oldest came out,” Evans said. “But I didn’t celebrate.”
“He really didn’t need to come out to me. I just kind of asked him, like, ‘You know, is this the deal?’” Nelson said.
“I was an advocate before I became a parent so to speak,” said member Alisa Tomette.
The group of LGBTQ parents spreads acceptance through hugs at events around town.
“For me, the hugs says, ‘I see you, I love you, I celebrate you and I will fight for you,’” Evans said.
“The data nationwide shows that family support is critical for these kids,” Tomette said.
They encounter many who don’t get that love from their own families.
“It’s heartbreaking. It is absolutely heartbreaking when you meet kids who have nowhere to go and no family simply because of who they love,” Nelson said.
For some, it was a journey to get here.
“I grew up in a family and a church environment that was extremely conservative,” Evans said. “I was scared about how my family and church would react.”
But if you see the free mom huggers around town, you can be sure they’ll greet you with open arms.
“There was a 40-year-old woman who was there with her wife, and broke down in tears and thanked us for being there,” Tomette said.
“They’re the heroes of this story,” Evans said. “We just get to show up and give them some hugs.”
You’ll see the free mom huggers out here this weekend. They will have a booth B17 in the blue section on Saturday and Sunday, and they’ll be at the parade on Sunday.