When Scott “Howie” Dittman recently went to the Pride Parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he didn’t realize that his actions that day would bring comfort to so many people or that his story would go viral in a big way.
Dittman’s friend Denna was going to the parade with an organization called Free Mom Hugs and Dittman said, “‘well I’m going to go,’ and I hopped on Amazon and grabbed a ‘free dad hugs’ T-shirt. I just thought it would put a smile on people’s faces.”
It’s no surprise that many LGBTQ people are ostracized by their families because of their lifestyle. And, as Dittman realized, a hug goes a long way for people whose parents are no longer in their lives through no fault of their own.
He said, “You could tell they hadn’t had something as simple as a hug from their dad in a long time. That broke my heart.”
Dittman hugged a lot of people at the Pride Parade, and he shared this post on Facebook detailing two of his more moving encounters that day.
Dittman’s post went viral and he said he’s received more than 1,500 messages from strangers who were incredibly moved by the story, including some parents. He said, “I’ve had so many parents reach out to me saying they’ve been crying for days, saying they’ve been those parents, and they’ve reached out to their children they haven’t talked to in years. How do even describe that?” he said. “How do you even describe the feeling that gives you?”
Dittman added, “It’s humbling, but it’s sad. It’s sad that these people needed a stupid social media post to have eyes opened and to feel welcomed. It’s sad that some guy in some small town western Pennsylvania is having that much of an impact when that impact should’ve been made and when they shouldn’t have even needed it because they weren’t abandoned in the first place.”