Scott ‘Howie’ Ditman got a call from his friend and community service ally Denna Hays to ask him if he wanted to join her at the Pittsburgh Pride Parade that was coming up the following weekend.
Denna founded Butler County Alliance for Children, and was going to support her daughter and her girlfriend.
She was also going as a representative of Free Mom Hugs, a support group made up of parents of LGBTQ children.
She would wear a ‘Free Mom Hugs’ shirt, and emulate the founder of Free Mom Hugs, Sara Cunningham. Sara has acted as a stand-in mom for many women whose mothers abandoned them. Doting on them, making wedding plans, you name it.
44 year-old Howie, who is married to a woman and has two kids, saw this as a learning and teaching moment for both himself and for his sons.
He needed a fresh outlook on the issues brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community faced in their lives, specifically their relationships with parents, and even more specific with their fathers.
“My first thought was well if you had a hundred moms and a hundred dads presented with a child that identified with this population, my thought was that the moms overall would likely be more accepting so possibly dad hugs could be even more needed.
I went out on Amazon Prime and ordered a shirt and went down on Sunday just to try to put a smile on people’s faces.”
What Howie didn’t fully understand yet, was just how many parents reject their children, after their child reveals his/her sexual orientation.
Over 700 hugs were given in those three hours.
However, many went beyond joy and happiness.
Many hugs touched-off great grief in those being embraced.
Here are but two….
This man came up to Howie and opened up his whole being, along with his arms.
“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.”
And this woman.
“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 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 take a huge leap to assume she’s lost those who should love her the most and forever.”
When the media got ahold of this, Howie wanted to get a message across to the parents that would abandon their child.
“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 t-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 had to shoulder that burden.”
And a message to these two that left such an impact on him.
“If by chance anyone knows these folks, please let them know they can reach out any time they need a surrogate dad to talk to. I’ll be there.”
He has since received thousands of messages in his inbox from parents who recognized themselves more fully from his message.
And were going to contact their children to try and rekindle what should never have been broken.
Howie founded Helping Butler County, a local volunteer group with nearly 4,000 members and the goal of helping those in need.
“We find a need that is lacking in our community, and we try to fill that need.
And just be good human beings.”
This quote from lgbtqnation has never reiterated anything more true….
It just goes to show how a simple act of kindness and public love can positively impact hundreds of people you’ve never even met.
Next weekend, in a town about two hours away from my Colorado community, there will a town sponsored Pride Parade.
I’ve already ordered my FREE DAD HUGS shirt, albeit white and short- sleeved.
And am more than prepared to send and to receive transmissions of love..
I’m a hugger.
Like Howie and Denna.
Added by dmlht 66.
Scott “Howie” Dittman Interview WRT “Free Dad Hugs”