Mighty dad, cool-looking dude, LGBTQ hero.
A Pennsylvania man has deeply changed the lives of people who were rejected by their families simply for being who they are.
In an incredible show of support to the LGBTQ community, Scott “Howie” Dittman, a father of two and married to a woman, decided to join an organization called “Free Mom Hugs" taking part in the Pittsburgh Pride Parade last week.
The father of two wore a customized sleeveless T-shirt that read “Free Dad Hugs,” which showed his sleeve-tattoed arm.
“Dad hugs might be even more needed," he correctly guessed, as he told People.
He said he struggled to understand why so many people would ever abandon their kids: “I’m really pissed off. I’m not okay with this.”
He also told his wife about the emotional experience of giving over 700 hugs in two and a half hours, “It was amazing.”
“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?”
“You go in thinking you’re just going to put a smile on a few peoples faces, and you come out knowing or understanding their struggle,” he told CBS News. “It was life-changing, it really was.”
In a week after the parade, a post he shared on his Facebook page has been shared over 200,000 times and it has received more than 36,000 comments.
He also wrote about his encounters with two people. A man who was “kicked 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 bit of that pain that he carries with him every minute of every day. He was abandoned because of who he loves.”
He also mentioned a woman who stood in front of him with tears in her eyes, “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.”
The emotional experience of touching so many people’s lives is "humbling, but it’s sad,” he told People.
“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.”