Moms and dads at Pride offer free hugs to kids whose parents rejected them
Your parents are supposed to be the ones who stand by you no matter what. Many parents understand that friends and partners will come and go, but they will be the ones to always help you up when you fall. Many parents strive to be the person their children can always rely upon until their dying breath.
However, there are some individuals out there who aren't fortunate enough to experience this love and support from their parents. There are many cases out there where parents will reject their children simply because of their sexual orientation.
We've all heard heartbreaking stories of people in the LGBTQ+ community being shunned by their families simply because of who they love, but thankfully, there are people like Howie Dittman who are compassionate enough to embrace and comfort these individuals and show them the love they deserve.
Dittman, from Pennsylvania, has recently gone viral after attending the June 9 Pittsburgh Pride Parade with a group of friends wearing t-shirts saying 'free dad hugs' and 'free mom hugs'.
The scenes that followed were enough to bring tears into the hearts of even the coldest people.
Images and stories have been shared to Dittman's Facebook timeline of him embracing Pride goers one-by-one. But two stories, in particular, have simultaneously broken and warmed the hearts of those who read them.
Sharing a split image of himself hugging a young male and a young female (below), Dittman proceeded to share their stories on his Facebook page. He typed:
"He 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. 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 then shared the story of the young woman on the right, typing:
"Her story? I don't know the specifics. But 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. What she must be going thru with her family... the ones who are supposed to be there for her no matter what. 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? I don't know her story. But it doesn't feel like a huge leap to assume she's lost those who should love her the most and forever."
Concluding his events from the day, Dittman shared an emotional plea to all parents out there:
"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. Think of the depths of their pain. Try to imagine how deep those cuts must be.
"Please don't be the parent of a child that has to shoulder that burden. I met WAY too many of them, of all ages, today."
Such an incredible story from an incredible group of people. Love is love!