FMH is Throwing a Party – in The Spec

by Jeff Mahoney, The Hamilton Spectator

The hugs are free to the receiver and they are their own reward to the giver.

Still, when you’re travelling around from pride parade to pride parade and doing other events, activities and networking that promote awareness and support for the LGBTQ2S+ community, the costs can add up.

So Free Mom Hugs, Southern Ontario, founded and based in Hamilton, is trying to raise money to help its members cover travel and other expenses associated with the incredible volunteer work they do, taking arms, hugging arms quite literally, against — if we can continue with Shakespeare — what can be “a sea of troubles.”

And what do you think they’re doing to raise that money? Well, they are embracing the city in a kind of giant hug of art, music, dance, show and much else, which will all swirl around an exciting party/auction, featuring some amazing items.

It all happens on Thursday, Nov. 10 at Hamilton’s Cotton Factory, 270 Sherman Ave. N., from 7 p.m. to midnight, and it promises to be one of the best events of the year, says Free Mom Hugs member Martha Christianson, one of the event organizers.

Also, there will be beautiful hand-painted glasses at the event so that attendees can use the same one for their drinks all night.

When you consider the contribution that Free Mom Hugs, Southern Ontario, makes to the well-being of all of us it’s not hard to understand the eagerness of some top performers, artists and others to help out.

Free Mom Hugs helps make some of the most vulnerable in the community feel affirmed, loved, protected and stood up for.

Do the people they stand up for often face a sea of troubles?

To put in perspective, Martha points to the origins of Free Mom Hugs, Southern Ontario.

“It really started in Hamilton when there were tense confrontations at pride parade” in the late 2010s. There were hate rallies, she says, and not just here.

Hamilton’s Karol DeStefano started the group then and it has grown immensely since then, to a current complement of about 2,000 across southern Ontario. They give out hugs, words and gestures of support and affirmation, whatever is required.

They are a group of LGBTQ2S+ parents, friends and allies.

Martha knows from first-hand experience how much difference it can make, especially to a young person, to know that people have your back.

“My first-born Mads, came to me at the age of 16, stressed one night and said, ‘Can we talk? Now?’”

Then Mads, who now uses the pronoun “they,” said to their mother, “Mom, I don’t know exactly what I am but I know I’m not straight. I don’t like guys.” Mads was concerned about how Martha would take it.

Martha looked at her child and said, “Seriously? Why would you be concerned about me. I love you. Now you should clean your room.” And Mads smiled.

“I have one job,’ says Martha. “Love unconditionally.”

To book tickets and for more information, check Free Mom Hugs, Southern Ontario, Facebook page.