Man offered “Free Dad Hugs” at Pride parade and it turns out – people really needed them

Ladies and gentlemen – meet Scott Dittman. His friends call him Howie and, recently, he made a very big impact at a Pride parade.
Dittman says he doesn’t think of himself as an LGBTQ ally, and yet, during this particular weekend, he certainly made a huge impact to everyone he came across during this event.

Dittman, 44, found out that his friend Denna was going to the Pittsburgh Pride festival promoting love by wearing a “Free Mom Hugs” shirt. They’re actually an organization that assists the LGBTQ community and provides literal hugs at Pride events.

After hearing about the organization, Dittman thought it’d be great to tag along! Except, he’d wear a “Free Dad Hugs” t-shirt.
“And I just said, ‘well I’m going to go,’ and I hopped on Amazon and grabbed a ‘free dad hugs’ T-shirt,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I just thought it would put a smile on people’s faces.”

Thinking it would just be a fun event to attend, Dittman had no idea what an impact he would have, not only on the people at the event but on himself as well.

The first person that walked up to him for a free hug was a young woman.

“I turned around and she’s just standing there in front of me with tears in her eyes,” said Dittman.

“She just threw her arms around me and just thanked me over and over and over again,” he continued.

Another huge moment came for Dittman when a man approached him and told him his parents abandoned and disowned him when he came out as gay at 19.

“He just sobbed and sobbed and thanked us,” said Dittman. “He just melted. It was an honor to be involved in that, but it was terrible at the same time.”

Dittman told BuzzFeed news that he was overwhelmed by the types and kinds of hugs he received that day. Many happy hugs, lots of them full of joy, and a majority of them were filled with tears.

He said that when people looked at him and saw his shirt – a switch would flip inside people.
“You could tell they hadn’t had something as simple as a hug from their dad in a long time,” he said. “That broke my heart.”

Dittman finished his day at the Pride event and returned home – he felt a pang of sadness about him. He felt angry that so many of the people he met, and thousands of others that he’ll never meet, are carrying around so much hurt.

Dittman was so impacted by his time at the Pride event, he had to share his experience on Facebook.
“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 wrote.

“Think of the depths of their pain. Try to imagine how deep those cuts must be.”

After sharing this heartfelt post on Facebook, Dittman received thousands of messages from complete strangers. Some are even parents.
“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,” said Dittman.

“How do even describe that?” he said. “How do you even describe the feeling that gives you?”

We think Dittman’s actions and the impression the day had on him are absolutely inspiring.