On this Father’s Day, we’re happy to spotlight one man who’s trying to be the definition of a good dad. That’s, of course, even if he isn’t biologically or legally the guardian of whomever he meets.
Last year, we introduced you to Sara Cunningham who’s the creator of the Free Mom Hugs group. The organization tries to support LGBTQ youths through advocacy, charity work, and through appearing at Prides with open arms ready to hug. Now, a man working with Free Mom Hugs has gone viral for offering Free Dad Hugs at this week’s Pittsburgh Pride.
Scott “Howie” Dittman attended the parade with his friend Denna, who was going to help the local Free Mom Hugs group. Dittman then decided to help spread the love.
“Taking some time out to make people smile today,” Dittman wrote on Instagram along with the photo of the first women he hugged at the parade. “This young girl cried and hugged me for so long.”
Dittman later shared a post in Facebook, which is going viral as well, to talk about the entire experience.
“I know that she saw me from across the street. I wasn’t paying attention. By the time she got to me, she had 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.”
Sadly, LGBTQ youth are still being rejected by their families on a regular basis. That has then led to a rise in unfortunate circumstances for LGBTQ Youth such as the fact that they make up 40% of the homeless youth population.
“Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse, compared to peers from families that reported no levels of family rejection.”
Scott Dittman is aware of these statistics and felt their significance in his embrace with the first woman he hugged.
“What she must be going thru with her family… the ones who are supposed to be there for her no matter what,” he said in the Facebook post. “Who does she go to when she needs advice on love, money or just life? Who does she share old memories with that only her parents would have been there for? What are her holidays like? How often does she hope for that phone call, with unconditional love on the other end?”
Dittman then talked to BuzzFeed News to share how he had similar emotional experiences the entire day.
“It was an honor to be involved in that, but it was terrible at the same time,” 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.”
While it’s great that Dittman’s hugs went viral online, the real significance is the fact that Dittman and others are trying to bridge this gap of affection and love so desperately craved by LGBTQ youth.
So, a great thanks and well wishes go out to the men and women who are trying to spread a little love to those who lost it long ago. Happy Father’s Day.