Thousands pack downtown to celebrate Out! Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Thousands packed into downtown Raleigh Saturday to celebrate the ninth annual Out! Raleigh.

Downtown light poles sport the Out! Raleigh logo that pairs with a Pride flag. The Triangle Pride Band played on the steps of the Wake County Courthouse.

For the first time at Out! Raleigh, the North Carolina Chapter of Free Mom Hugs was present. Heather Robinson is the co-chair of the group. "What is Free Mom Hugs? What do you do?" Robinson says " We show up and we hug!"

Robinson holds a sign with the group's name on it. "As a mother, I'm gonna get choked up... we can't play the game for you, as a former soccer mom," Robinson said. "We can't run on the field and play the game. We stand on the sidelines and hug you and pull your pants back up and lick your wounds and put the Gatorade down your throat and we hug you and send you back on the field and say 'you got this baby!'"

Julie O'Neal is also co-chair of the group.

"Everybody who sees us, perhaps that gives them a little bit of encouragement to know 'Yeah! There are folks who want to embrace me.'"

Last year, over 60,000 people attended the event.

"It is the largest fundraiser for the LGBT Center of Raleigh. It brings in about 25 percent of our budget. Basically, it pays for the 27 programs and services that we have at the Center along with our library, " James Miller with the LGBT Center of Raleigh said.
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