Women to give out ‘Free Mom Hugs’ at Saturday’s PrideFest

NORFOLK, Va. -- Melissa Baumann considers herself a spectacular squeezer.

"I love hugs. I am a super 'huggy' person, and I think everyone in Ghent loves my hugs," Baumann stated.

So naturally, the mother of three was honored to be tasked with giving out tight grips and armfuls of affection at Saturday's Hampton Roads PrideFest.

"I think it's important to use your voice and step up where you can. It's a tremendous honor to have been asked to do this," she stated.

She'll be one of many huggers giving out "Free Mom Hugs."

It's a grassroots organization with one mission: To build a better tomorrow one hug at a time.

"It's like, 'I'll hold your hand. I'll go with you. I'll stand with you.' I think that's what's behind it," she explained. "Sometimes it's a quick bro-hug, 'Thanks, I needed that,' or maybe it's a very emotional release and sense of safety that comes from the embrace."

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Baumann and other moms part of the mission hope members of the LGBTQ community will appreciate the closeness on Saturday.

"I'm not gonna pretend to be a member of the LGBTQ community and what it feels like to walk an inch in those shoes, but I do understand what family rejection feels like and a sense of loss," said Baumann.

It's allies like Baumann - lending their affection those who may feel a bit rejected.

"The festival is so joyful. It appeals to everyone, and we want everyone to be accepted no matter what your alliance is," said Eric Hause, Publisher of 757 Outwire.com.

Hause says the festival is all about unconditional acceptance.

"You don’t have to be queer; you can be straight, somewhere in between - it doesn't matter. There are no labels," Hause stated.

So, if you want a free hug, look for the women in the "Free Mom Hugs" t-shirts. There will be six huggers per hour.

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