OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Saturday's Heartland Pride Parade was filled with positive energy and smiling faces.
Among the crowd was Marisa Tomlinson, an Omaha mom providing love to those in the LGBTQIA+ community one hug at a time.
"So many of the LGBTQ community don't have families that support them unfortunately which breaks my heart. So I just want to be there to let them know that somebody does care, somebody sees them, somebody loves them," said Tomlinson.
Tomlinson was not the only one providing this support. People in 'Free Mom Hugs' t-shirts could be seen every block of the parade, highlighting just how big of need their presence really is.
Deanna Hanquist, a mental health specialist, said too often kids who come out to their parents are rejected, abused or thrown out of their homes.
"The relationship with your mom and your dad is the beginning of where you get yourself worth and if that is...that trust and connection broke because you are choosing a lifestyle that they don't believe in then I don't know how you come back from that…it's hard. I see my role as coming in and being able to pick up where that is left off at," said Hanquist.
According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQIA+ youth represent as much as 40% of the homeless youth population in the United States.
Of that population, multiple studies indicate that as many as 60% are likely to attempt suicide.
"The theme that I see with all human beings, straight and homosexual, is a feeling like they are not enough, they are not good enough, they are less than…and that makes me very sad," said Hanquist.
Hanquist and Tomlinson said their goal is to make it known how much love there is for the LGBTQIA+ community in the Omaha area while also breaking down barriers in their own religious communities.
"To me, the gospel breaks down into four words: love God, love others. Not love others that are like you, not love others that think like you, love everyone," said Tomlinson. "I am a child of God and what he wants me to do is love, not judge. What I think doesn't matter. How I love matters."
If you are looking for ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community, check out the Trevor Project's website.