Mother-son duo spread love, acceptance one hug at a time

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's 50th annual Pride Parade on Sunday was a celebration of love and acceptance. A mother-son duo made an effort to make others feel welcome and spread love through hugs.

Oklahoma native Sara Cunningham stood by her openly gay son Parker at the parade, but the moment didn't happen overnight.

"When he was 21 he said, 'Mom I met someone and I need you to be okay about it,'" Sara recalled. "That's the day I had to face reality that I have a gay son."

Sara is a conservative Evangelical Christian and says she struggled with her religious beliefs after her son opened up to her.

"I thought that I had to choose between my faith and my child - My faith and my gay child," Sara said. "I had been duped, and it's caused great harm and devastation to a beautiful community. And as a mom and a woman of faith, I am standing up and I'm saying, 'Enough is enough.'"

Sara soon realized that unconditional love was more important. She and her family stood next to Parker in 2014 at the Oklahoma City Pride Parade.

Now Sara stands in when other LGBTQ people need a mom to turn to, or even if they just need a hug.

"It really opens our eyes to the needs that are still there across the board for everyone," Parker said.

Sara and Parker are part of the Free Mom Hugs group. They visit cities across the country spreading their message of acceptance and advocacy.

"There is definitely a transfer of energy and I think whenever you feel that from another person who's not had that from someone like you or someone that desires it from someone like you, it's a monumental thing," Parker said.

Their mission now is to educate families, church leaders and others to join them in love and acceptance.
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