She once struggled to accept her gay son. Now she's leading the 'Free Mom Hugs' movement.

When Sara Cunningham's son told her he was gay, she didn't know how to accept it.

The Oklahoma mom told CBS that as "a woman of faith," she had a hard time reconciling her son's sexuality and what she'd learned from the church.

But that struggle ended in the revelation that she loved her son and wanted to accept him for who he was. To learn more about how to best support her child, she started doing research and joined a private Facebook support group. She was committed to becoming the best ally she could.


In 2014, she attended her first Pride event with her husband and their son. She was happy to be supportive but nervous and ashamed of her own ignorance. By 2015, all that had changed. She went back to Pride — this time wearing a pin that said "free mom hugs."

"Anyone who made eye contact with me, I'd say, 'Can I offer you a free mom hug or high five?' And I went home with glitter all over me," Cunningham said.

Those free hugs have inspired a movement. Now, she's a "stand-in mom" for every LGBTQ person who needs one.

After Pride, Cunningham started a Free Mom Hugs group on Facebook so she could help other parents. She's inspired countless other moms to share the message at Pride festivals — where they go to offer free hugs to anyone who might need one.

Cunningham also officiates LGBTQ weddings (she got ordained for that purpose!), and when she learned that many LGBTQ couples don't invite their parents to their weddings because their relationships aren't accepted, she went even further. Cunningham let everyone know that if they needed a "mom for a day," she'd show up and stand in like they were her very own kids.

PSA. If you need a mom to attend your same sex wedding because your biological mom won't. Call me. I'm there. I'll be your biggest fan. I'll even bring the bubbles.

Posted by Sara Cunningham on Friday, July 20, 2018

The response was incredible, with thousands of people liking, responding, and sharing Cunningham's post. And other moms are joining in. According to the replies to Cunningham's post, they're signing up all over the country.

The work that Free Mom Hugs is doing is vital for the LGBTQ community.

While it may seem like a no-brainer that parents would choose to love their children unconditionally, the reality can be starkly different. In fact, LGBTQ youth are more likely to be homeless than other teens, often because of lack of family acceptance.

Cunningham wants to help change that by being supportive of all those who need it and by being a resource to parents who need guidance. She's filling a need that was definitely there. Cunningham says that one of the most common things she's heard from older members of the community is that they wish she'd been around for them earlier. But she's here now — and she's not going anywhere.

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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The 1776 Report isn't just bad, it's historically bad, in every way possible.

When journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones published her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times, some backlash was inevitable. Instead of telling the story of America's creation through the eyes of the colonial architects of our system of government, Hannah-Jones retold it through the eyes of the enslaved Africans who were forced to help build the nation without reaping the benefits of democracy. Though a couple of historical inaccuracies have had to be clarified and corrected, the 1619 Project is groundbreaking, in that it helps give voice to a history that has long been overlooked and underrepresented in our education system.

The 1776 Report, in turn, is a blaring call to return to the whitewashed curriculums that silence that voice.

In September of last year, President Trump blasted the 1619 Project, which he called "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country." He subsequently created a commission to tell the story of America's founding the way he wanted it told—in the form of a "patriotic education" with all of the dog whistles that that phrase entails.

Mission accomplished, sort of.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.