BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
FERNDALE – When Kristin Gilbody was pregnant with Zachariah, the youngest of her four children, she learned she had cancer.
Then her partner abandoned their family.
Gilbody was just 29 years old.
“My body was becoming weaker,” said Gilbody, now 32, and a Warren resident. “The doctors didn’t know if my body could take it. The doctor told her and my mother to get my affairs in order. She (Gilbody’s partner) couldn’t deal with it.”
Her parents and eight siblings stepped forward.
“My mother moved in with me and took care of the kids. My mother became their mother and my brothers became their fathers,” she said. “Zach didn’t know me as a mom until he was one year old.”
Today, Gilbody is healthy and has found happiness in a new relationship with her partner, Dawn Morris, 28.
The couple brought two of their children to the Motor City Pride Family Picnic at Martin Road Park in Ferndale on Sunday.
More than a dozen families from around the state joined Gilbody to meet other kids and couples, play games and enjoy a beautiful summer morning together.
Gilbody remembers the day she held her first-born child in her arms.
Her premature daughter weighed a little over a pound.
“There were no words to it,” she said. “I never knew I could feel that kind of love. I was afraid — was I going to be a good mom?”
One of her first lessons to her children was that love makes a family — not the parents’ genders.
Her daughter, Chasya-Love Gilbody, 7, picked up that message.
When her fellow students teased a boy at school for having two dads, Chasya-Love spoke up.
“She chimed in he wasn’t alone,” said Gilbody. “She said she has two moms.”
At the picnic, mothers and fathers pushed their youngsters on swings, snapped up toddlers finished with playing on the climbing fort, joined in the marshmallow race and ate home-packed treats at tables beneath a wooden canopy studded with rainbow balloons.
After her meal, one girl concentrated as she blew bubbles from a plastic wand, while nearby a tiny boy kicked a brightly striped beach ball, nearly as big as him.
Detroit resident Katie Snyder, 46, watched as her daughter Mikayla, 7, swept down a slide.
“You put my daughter in a room full of 7-year-olds and tell me who can pick out the child with the gay parents?” she said.
Snyder isn’t her daughter’s bio-mom.
“I’m the non pain-bearing parent,” she said.
When her relationship with her ex-partner broke up after eight years, Snyder thought she might never get to enjoy days in the park with her daughter again.
Without her little girl, Snyder said she would not have survived the break-up of her family.
Her new partner Marielle Randolph, 44, said she thinks Snyder is “awesome.”
She’s very loving and giving,” Randolph said.
The groups sponsoring and organizing the picnic, the Human Rights Campaign and the Triangle Foundation, hope all people will soon grasp that there’s no difference between straight families and LGBT moms and dads.
“They don’t realize these families go to church, they go grocery shopping — if they saw that, I think their views would change,” said Mike Hemmingsen, 29, a Madison Heights resident and member of HRC’s Board of Governors.
Deanna Hewitt, 31, Brandy Douglas, 32, Taylor Hewitt, 7 and Buddy Douglas, 7, traveled to the picnic from Morrice — one and a half hours outside Ferndale, just so their youngsters could see other families like their own.
“This is definitely worth the drive,” said Douglas.