A Pennsylvania father’s Facebook post has gone viral after he gave out free ‘dad hugs’ at the Pittsburgh Pride parade and comforted strangers rej-ected by their families for their se*ual orie-ntation. Howie Dittman, 44, headed to the Pride parade with a group of friends wearing ‘free dad hugs’ and ‘free mom hugs’ shirts on June 9, opening up his arms to strangers and offering a comforting emb-race.
He took to the social network to detail how he gave out ‘hundreds of hugs’ and while most were joyful, ‘way too many’ fell into his arms with heartbr–eaking stories.
‘He was k!cked out at 19 when his parents found out. They haven’t spoken to him since. He cried on my shoulder. Sobbed. Squeezed me with everything he had. I felt a tiny b!t of that pa!n that he carries with him every minute of every day. He was aban-doned because of who he loves,’ he shared.
‘And on June 9th, 2019, he was participating in a celebration of love when he was brought to his emotional knees by a shirt that said “FREE DAD HUGS” on a complete stranger,’ he added.
He opened up about another woman who fell into Dittman’s arms with tears in her eyes.
‘She stood in front of me and looked up at me, with a look of sadness and helplessness that I’ll never forget. She hugged me with everything she had. And I hugged her back. She held on for so long, melting into me, and thanked me endlessly. And I can’t stop thinking about her. What she must be going thru with her family…,’ he said.
‘Imagine that, parents. Imagine that your child feels SO LOST FROM YOU that they sink into the arms of a complete stranger and sob endlessly just because that stranger is wearing a shirt offering hugs from a dad,’ he added.
His post has ra-cked up more than 363,000 likes and over 261,000 shares.
Speaking on his good de-ed, the Karns City man says that he and his peers left with a ‘deeper understanding of the abyss if pa!n’ those rej-ected by their families feel.
‘It was incredibly powerful and humbling to be a part of those moments,’ he said to Fox35.
Dittman is hoping his work will teach parents to think twice about their children and rej-ecting them on account of who they love.
Recalling the high emotions of the Pride parade to his wife he said, ‘It was amazing, and I’m really pi-ssed off. I’m not okay with this.’
‘How are these people parents? What are you doing? How can you tr-eat your children like that just because of who they love? Even if you don’t agree with it, how can you just cut them off?’ he added to People Magazine.
Dittman runs the volunteer group Helping Butler County and is dedicated to helping his community.
He said he was inspired to attend the Pride Parade after Denna Hays, the founder of the Butler County Alliance for Children RSVP’ed to a Facebook event called Free Mom Hugs chapter page.
‘It sounded like a great way to put a smile on peoples’ faces, and I did have a sus-picion that dads, in general, aren’t likely as accepting of individuals in the LGBTQ lifestyle as a mom would be,’ Dittman said to Parents.com.
So far he’s given out over 700 hugs and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.
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