"She stood in front of me and looked up at me, with a look of sadness and helplessness that I'll never forget," he said of one of the people who accepted the free hug.
A 44-year-old father's decision to give out free "dad hugs" at a pride parade has now gone viral. He was offering hugs to strangers 'rejected' by their families for their sexual orientation. Howie Dittman made his way to Pittsburgh Pride with friends wearing "free dad hugs" and "free mom hugs" T-shirts and opened up his arms to people in a bid to comfort them. According to Daily Mail, he then posted the exchange on social media and said although most were happy about getting the hug, "way too many" had some truly heartbreaking stories. "He was kicked out at 19 when his parents found out," he recalls one person's story. "They haven't spoken to him since. He cried on my shoulder. Sobbed. Squeezed me with everything he had. I felt a tiny bit of that pain that he carries with him every minute of every day. He was abandoned because of who he loves."
He added: "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." Dittman also narrated the story of another woman who accepted his hugs and broke into tears. "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.
The Pittsburgh resident was deeply saddened by the stories of people attending the rally and it takes huge amounts of neglect and misunderstanding from parents to reach this level. "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 said. At the time of writing this story, his post racked up over 373,000 likes and over 267k shares. His good deed earned him appreciation from all corners of the country. Speaking about his actions, he said: " It was incredibly powerful and humbling to be a part of those moments,' Fox35 reported.
Dittman is hopeful his work will make parents rethink their decision about rejecting their children based on the people they love. Attending the rally was also an eye-opener, one that left him fuming. Speaking to PEOPLE, he said: "It was amazing, and I’m really pissed off. I’m not okay with this. 'How are these people parents? What are you doing? How can you treat 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 was inspired to join the Pride march after Denna Hays, the founder of Butler County Alliance for Children signed up for a Facebook event named Free Mom Hugs chapter.
That man has a beautiful soul— 💙Kelly13🌊☮❤🎵🏳️🌈 (@AiglerKelly) June 16, 2019
Commenting on a post of the dad hugging people, Lauren Barnett Lipchak wrote: "What an amazing act of human love. Small acts with big impact. Thank you for loving others... what you do makes a difference in the lives of others, and that my friend is no small thing." Jaclynn Rose added: "Had to stop a few times to dry my eyes long enough to see this. I love this idea and would love to give out hugs. Thank you for giving them comfort."
Amazing guy! No better time than to see this man's love and compassion for humanity. When Trump and the regime's ideology cause dissension, hatred, bigotry, toward those they deem unworthy they are destroying what it means to be a human being..— Pamela Leslie (@Pamelaleslie) June 17, 2019