Dad Gives Out Over 700 Free Hugs At Pride Parade To Kids Rejected By Their Parents
LGBTQ+ youth sometimes have a tougher time in life because not all families are understanding. Many children who tell their families that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans do not receive love and understanding. Many are shunned, abandoned, and kicked out of their homes and families. Sadly, some LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience negative health and life outcomes. Scott Dittman thought that many of those children and adults could use a loving hug from a dad. His idea was to attend the Pride Parade and give out free dad hugs, and it ended up being so much more than he could have ever imagined.
Scott "Howie" Dittman Offers Free Dad Hugs
Scott Dittman decided to attend the Pride Parade and to wear a 'Free Dad Hugs' shirt because he believed that dad hugs would be needed. Dittman was right, as he gave out hundreds of hugs to people that day.
"And I just said, 'well, I'm going to go,' and I hopped on Amazon and grabbed a 'Free Dad Hugs' t-shirt. I just thought I would put a smile on people's faces." ------ Scott Dittman. His choice meant so much to so many people that day at the parade.
Parade Attendees Approached Him Throughout The Day
At the parade, Scott Dittman's shirt resonated with many as attendees approached him throughout the day with tears, smiles, and heartbreaking stories to share with him. Scott gave hundreds of hugs and listened to many parade-goers' stories.
Dittman stated that he went home to his wife and two children to tell them about the event. He said it was amazing but had trouble grasping that so many parents had abandoned their kids because of who they loved.
Dittman Volunteers With A Local Charitable Organization Called Helping Butler County
Scott Dittman founded and volunteers with a local charitable organization called Helping Butler County. The organization's goal is to assist the less fortunate in their surrounding communities in any way they can.
The group wants to provide encouragement, resources, and compassion to those in need. The group is the reason that several members, including Dittman, decided to attend the Pittsburgh Pride On The Street Parade.
Dittman Was Captured In An Embrace With A Man In His 50s
While Scott Dittman was at the parade giving out hugs, there were a few that stood out to him. One was a man in his fifties that revealed that his parents kicked him out of the house when he was nineteen years old.
"The other gentleman came up, and he sobbed for so long. That's thirty years that his parents haven't spoken to him since they found out. I felt a tiny bit of that pain that he carries with him every minute of every day." ------ Scott Dittman.
Dittman Was Captured In An Embrace With One Woman In Her Early 20s
Another person that stood out to Dittman at the parade was a woman in her early twenties. He stated that the young woman noticed his shirt from across the street and went and found him. He said, "I turned around, and this young woman was standing there in front of me with tears in her eyes. She had a look of sadness and helplessness that I'll never forget.
She just threw her arms around me and started thanking me. She was having a blast, and she saw my shirt, and instantly, something drew a switch in her that she was like, 'I have to cross the street and get a hug from this guy, a complete stranger.'" Scott said it was after that hug that he began to truly understand the impact of his shirt that day.
Thousand Of People From Across The World Have Reached Out To Him On Social Media
Scott had many people at the parade that clung to him while sobbing and sharing their overwhelming pain. Since going to the Pride Parade and opening up about his experience, Scott said that his post has gone viral.
Thousands of users from across the world have reached out to him on social media. Some have shared their stories with him, and others have admitted to being suicidal but finding hope after seeing his post.
He Received Messages From Parents Who Thanked Him For Opening Their Eyes
Scott Dittman also received many messages from parents, thanking him for opening their eyes and encouraging them to reunite with their estranged family members. He stated that it is humbling to have parents message him but also sad.
He feels that it is sad that the parents needed a social media post to have their eyes opened and to feel welcomed. He couldn't believe that one guy in a small town in Western Pennsylvania was having that much of an impact.
He Is A Recent Project CommUNITY, CommUNITY Champion
Project CommUNITY is an organization that helps kids make good choices. Project CommUNITY has been providing youth with the knowledge to navigate the situations that every teen encounters since 1985.
They also award a person with the title of Project CommUNITY, CommUNITY Champion. Because of Scott Dittman's work with the LGBTQ+ community, he was named the Project CommUNITY, CommUNITY Champion.
A Pride Parade is an outdoor event that celebrates gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer achievements, social and self-acceptance, legal rights, and pride. Pride Parades typically happen annually, usually in June, and all over the world.
The parades are a chance for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community to partake in an event that is inclusive, accepting, and full of love. In addition, most of the events offer some sort of dedication to victims of AIDS and anti-LGBTQ+ violence.
LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, and it is a community for all people who identify as such. It is a community of individuals united by a common culture and social movements. Generally, LGBTQ+ communities celebrate diversity, sexuality, pride, and individuality.
However, not all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer individuals consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community. It is a group where these individuals can feel like they belong, are accepted, and loved for who they are.
'Free Mom Hugs' Organization
The group 'Free Mom Hugs' was founded by Sara Cunningham in 2018 as a nonprofit group. She had read stories about LGBTQ+ individuals whose families had turned their backs on them, abandoned them, and kicked them out of their homes.
These people were being punished just for being who they were, and Sara saw an opportunity. She wanted the individuals to know that she was there for them and that she and her group were there to listen and give mom hugs.
26% Of LGBTQ+ Youth Say What Their Biggest Problems Are
More than twenty-six percent of LGBTQ+ youth have stated that their biggest problems and fears are not feeling accepted by their family, trouble at school, and bullying. The consequences are tragic, as some of these children are abandoned just for who they love.
For example, a transgender teen in Ohio took her own life after her mother rejected her gender identity and made her attend conversion therapy. Her mother told CNN, "We don't support that, religiously."
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 and is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people. It is a nonprofit organization that offers a toll-free telephone number, The Trevor Lifeline, that offers trained counselors.
In addition, the organization offers guidance and resources to parents and educators in order to provide safe, accepting, and inclusive environments for youth at school and home.
Dittman Does Not Have An LGBTQ+ Child And Is 100% A Guy's Guy
Scott Dittman has two children, a ten-year-old boy, and an eighteen-year-old girl, neither of whom identify as LGBTQ+, and Dittman is one hundred percent a guy's guy. Even so, he has felt the pull to be there for those who do identify as LGBTQ+.
When asked about the hugs, he stated, "You could tell they hadn't had something as simple as a hug from their dad in a long time. That broke my heart. I don't identify as a Republican or Democrat. I'm an Independent. I've gotten a lot of hate mail calling me a leftist. I hunt. I fish. I carry a weapon. I'm a member of the NRA, but I'm out there hugging people because I don't care who you love."
He Is Determined To Continue On His Mission To #sparkkindness
Dittman hopes that this movement will continue to move forward, but he also stresses to parents that even those children who seem to be just fine on the exterior are still in need of their foundational support system. He stated that there isn't one person that doesn't need the foundational love and support of their parent.
"It should be unconditional; it should be fully trusting, where they feel the safest. That relationship is so meaningful; no matter how broken it is, it's never too late." ------ Scott Dittman.
Dittman Wrote A Powerful Letter To Parents
Scott Dittman wrote a letter to parents on social media because long after his hug, he still wonders what their reality is like. He urges parents to consider the implications of that stance.
He wrote: 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. Please don't be the parent of a child that has to shoulder that burden.
Beyond The Hugs: Testimonies Of Pain, Joy, Fear, Support, And Courage
Scott Dittman wrote the book titled Beyond The Hugs: Testimonies of Pain, Joy, Fear, Support, and Courage. It was published in 2019 and is a collection of messages, statements, and testimonies that he received after a social media post about giving out 'Free Dad Hugs.'
Some of the messages were joyous, some heartbreaking, some inspiring, some supportive, and some crying out for help. It all shows the impact that a simple act of unconditional love and kindness can have.
Sara Cunningham founded the group 'Free Mom Hugs,' which gives LGBTQ+ youth the same warm, loving embrace that only moms can offer. She started this because of her own story with her son.
He came out to her, and she struggled to accept him, but after attending her first Pride Parade in 2014, she started to embrace her son and the LGBTQ+ community. She returned to the parade the next year with a group offering free hugs from moms.
Return The Key: The Parents Who Reject Their Gay Children
"Return The Key" is a true story about a boy who is kicked out of his home because he is gay. Chris told his mom on the phone that Brendan wasn't his roommate; he was his boyfriend. His mother hung up on him; the next day she called him back and requested that he meet her at a cafe.
She said to him, "You've chosen a very difficult life, Chris. You'll be very lonely. You'll have no friends. And your health is at risk." She then requested that he return his key to the family home. She took the key, and the two barely spoke for twelve years.
Parents' Rejection Of A Child's Sexual Orientation Fuels Mental Health Problems
There have been many studies done that show a higher rate of health and mental health problems among LGBTQ+ teens than in heterosexual youth. Typically, social rejection is the culprit and parental rejection.
The studies also found that LGTBQ+ adults who reported high rates of parental rejection in their teens were more than eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide. In addition, they were six times more likely to report high levels of depression and more than three times more likely to use illegal drugs.
Helping Families To Support Their LGBTQ+ Children
The main goal in helping families learn to support their LGBTQ+ children isn't to change their beliefs or values. Instead, they aim to meet parents, families, and caregivers where they are to build an alliance to support their LGBTQ+ children.
In addition, it is to help them understand that family reactions that are experienced as rejection by their LGBTQ+ child contribute to many serious health concerns. They view each family as an ally.
What To Do: Let Your Child Talk And Be There To Listen
It is most important to just listen to your child and let them know you are there. Hug them if you can't find the words, and don't make them feel as though they have done something wrong.
Not talking to your son or daughter during an extremely sensitive and vulnerable moment is the sure way to make a human being feel like the loneliest person in the world. It is so important that your child knows you are there for them.
What To Do: Ask Them How You Can Help
When your child is coming out to you, it should be happy and prideful. As a parent, you might find it surprising or confusing, and that is okay. However, if that is the case, look at the moment as a great opportunity to listen to your child and find out what they need.
You should ask questions such as, "How are you feeling?" and "What can I do to help?" It is actually that simple. It's important to make sure you help your child in any way that you can.
What To Do: Celebrate Your Child's Future
Something not recommended for parents is to try and scare their child back into the closet. You will make your child feel even more like they are something bad and something to be feared. You should celebrate your child's future, whether they are LGBTQ+ or not.
It is easy to assume that society has evolved to a place where everyone is accepted, but not everyone lives in an idealized town or family. Help your child to realize that their future is bright and full of possibilities.
What To Do: Trust Your Child
Children are usually scared and confused when coming out but really want to come out because holding it in is work. Your child wants to trust you and trust that they can tell you anything, and you will still love them and be there for them.
A parent's love for their child should be unconditional, which means loving your child regardless of if they identify as LGBTQ+ or heterosexual. Trust that your child knows themselves.
What To Do: Just Be There
Being there for someone coming out shouldn't be difficult, regardless of your beliefs and values. You just simply need to be there, to listen, to offer tenderness, to be joyful, to celebrate, and to love.
If you need to process things because of how the news made you feel, don't put that weight on the shoulders of the person coming out. Your child coming out is about them, not about you. The best thing you can do for your child is to let them know you are there.
What To Do: Love Your Child
Many children that come out to their families are told to leave and are abandoned by the people they thought would always love them. It may take time to come to terms with your child being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
However, you should deal with that yourself, while still being there for your child, and make sure that they know you love them no matter what. Your child should always know that they come first, even over your own feelings.
How We Sleep At Night: A Mother's Memoir
In 2014, Sara Cunningham released her book titled How We Sleep At Night: A Mother's Memoir. The book is about a Christian mother coming to terms with her son being gay. It follows Sara's personal journey that starts with the church and ends at the Pride Parade. It explores her honest chronicle of the fears, pains, frustrations, and deep love of a church-going parent dealing with a confusing situation.
"The book will not be an easy one for some to read, but it should be widely experienced. It is crucial reading for achieving a healthy and positive understanding of the real people involved in the broad and so often abstract news headlines. They are sons and daughters, parents and children, friends, and neighbors. In other words, we are all family." ------ Marilyn A. Hudson.
Mama Bears Documentary
Mama Bears is a documentary about a group of conservative mothers who shed their hate and prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community. The film was directed by Daresha Kyi and follows mothers who have cut ties with their old life to keep their kids safe.
The star of the documentary is the young Kai Shappley, a trans girl who completely changed her mother's view on trans people. It's sad to think that not every parent chooses their child over their religion.
Faith is an important part of many LGBTQ+ people's lives and the misconception that LGBTQ+ people cannot belong within faith communities has been deeply damaging. The research found that a third of LGBTQ+ people of faith aren't open with anyone in their faith community about their sexual orientation.
Building an equal society is about ensuring that everyone, including the LGBTQ+ community, in that society, can access equality. All religions should be available to all people.
Favorite 'Free Mom Hugs' Story
Sara Cunningham has met many people at Pride Parades throughout the years. She stated her favorite story is about a young African-American transgender college student. "It was his first time 'out.' Struggling to keep a job, he became homeless. An agency helped him get an apartment. But it became unsafe because of harassment from neighbors.
Extended family from out of state offered to let him stay with them. Free Mom Hugs bought him a bus ticket. Years later, he planned to fly back for the third annual Transgender Banquet. He missed his flight. Feeling discouraged, he bought a lottery ticket and won ten thousand dollars, enough for top surgery, male chest reconstruction."
The Significance Of A Pride Parade
The basic concept of the Pride Parade is that you should be proud of who you are. Pride Parades are extremely important for several reasons. They are important because unity is strength, and making yourself heard is important.
In addition, the parade helps to magnify people's strength and contribute to making a change towards a better world. It's an event where everyone can come together and support each other and feel loved and accepted.
Any Of Us Can Be A Mom Or Dad Substitute
Any of us can be a mom or dad substitute to be there for, support, love, and listen to those who have been rejected by their own families and loved ones. Everyone needs love and support, and everyone deserves love and support.
Even a hug can bring powerful restoration and healing. It's really a simple thing to be kind and a good person. It's also very contagious; when people see you helping others, they tend to jump in and help as well.
40% Of Homeless Youth Are LGBTQ+ Youth Who Have Been Kicked Out
Tragically, so many LGBTQ+ youth are disowned, kicked out of their homes, or emotionally abandoned simply for being who they are. Studies have found that up to forty percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ+ people who have been kicked out of their homes and left to fend for themselves.
They are left without emotional or financial support from their parents or loved ones. Almost half of the world's homeless are only homeless because of who they love.
Dittman Also Writes Children's Books
Scott Dittman also has written a couple of children's books. One of his books is titled What If and is a short story that will spark the imagination of both children and adults and encourages boldness in life.
His other book is titled Cuddle Me, which is a short bedtime story that will spark your child's imagination. In addition, it is sure to make them giggle as they try to cuddle like different animals. All of the illustrations were done by students of Karns City High School in Pennsylvania.
Sara Also Offered To Be A 'Stand-In Mom' At Any LGBTQ+ Weddings
In addition to Sara Cunningham attending Pride Parades and offering Free Mom Hugs, she also offers to be a 'stand-in mom' at any LGBTQ+ wedding where the biological mom won't be present.
She posted, "PSA. Call me if you need a mom to attend your same-sex wedding because your biological mom won't. I'll be your biggest fan. I'll even bring the bubbles." Since posting, Sara has attended many same-sex weddings and has even officiated a few. It also caught the attention of actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
The PFLAG is a national organization in Canada that helps Canadians with issues of sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.
They provide support, education, and resources for those with questions or concerns. They offer local, practical, and emotional peer-to-peer family support for individuals and their loved ones.
Father Suspected That His Son Was Gay
During Covid-19, a father allowed his twenty-year-old son to come and quarantine at his house. He also brought a friend, which the father quickly realized was more than just a friend when he caught them sleeping in the same bed together.
The father turned to the internet and asked for advice, and if it was okay to tell his son that he knew he was gay and was okay with it. His loving post went viral, with over three thousand posts giving encouragement and advice.
A Transgender Man's Parents Got Matching Tattoos Of The Trans Flag
Drew Price is a trans person from Australia, and he went on Twitter when his parents surprised him with matching tattoos of the trans flag in the shape of a heart. "My parents got trans flags tattoos to represent their trans son. My heart is bursting! I felt incredibly loved and accepted.
It was overwhelming actually, I know I am incredibly lucky to have parents that love and accept me for who I am. There were ups and downs, but they are both my number one supporters."------ Drew Price.
LGBTQ+ Teen Seeks Forever Family After Abandonment By Adoptive Parents
A teen from Oklahoma went public about trying to find a forever family because her adoptive parents abandoned her after finding out that she was LGBTQ+. They abandoned her after having become her parents more than seven years prior.
She wanted a family that would love her for who she is and would love if they were a same-sex couple. However, Oklahoma makes it difficult for same-sex couples to adopt.
The First Gay Pride Parade Was Held In Chicago
The first Pride Parade was held in Chicago in 1970, marking the first anniversary of Stonewall. The Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day March in New York City was considered by many to be the first Pride Parade.
However, that parade actually occurred one day after Chicago's parade. It was organized by the Chicago Gay Liberation Group. Pride Parades have continued every year since, all over the world.
Brenda Howard, 'Mother Of Pride'
Brenda Howard is a bisexual and a lifelong militant activist. In addition, she is also known as the 'Mother of Pride' because of her work in organizing the Christopher Street Liberation Day March.
She was also credited with laying the foundation for the weeklong celebrations of Pride leading up to the parades. In 1988, Howard also co-founded the New York Bisexual Network. She was one of the twentieth century's leading voices on bisexual rights and equality.
Bill Clinton Was The First U.S. President To Officially Recognize Pride Month
In 1999, President Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president that officially recognized June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. Clinton issued Proclamation No. 7203.
However, he also established the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 1994, which prohibited openly LGBTQ+ people from serving in the military. President Barack Obama also marked Pride Month every year he was in office; as is President Joe Biden.
The Pride Flags Have Their Own Interesting Histories
The rainbow flag is a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community, and it first appeared in the 1970s. The openly gay San Francisco city supervisor, Harvey Milk, had Gilbert Baker create a symbol, and he created the Pride flag in 1978.
The original flag was donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in 2014. Mike Page created the transgender Pride flag, and it was first flown at Phoenix Pride in 2000.
Every Color Of The Rainbow Flag Means Something
Every color of the rainbow LGBTQ+ Pride flag means something. The first flag that flew in 1978 took thirty volunteers to hand-dye and stitch. Gilbert Baker assigned different meanings to each color.
Hot pink represents sexuality, orange represents healing, red represents life, yellow represents sunlight, and green represents nature. Turquoise represents magic and art, indigo represents serenity and harmony, and violet represents spirit.
The Largest Pride Parade In The World Is In Sao Paulo, Brazil
In 1997, the Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade had two thousand attendees but has since grown to millions. In 2006, the parade in Brazil was named The Guinness Book of World Record's largest Gay Pride celebration in the world, with two and a half million people.
They have continued to hold that record ever since. New York's parade has roughly two million attendees, and San Francisco has 1.7 million attendees.
Elizabeth Perts was just fourteen years old when she came out to her family and friends. Her brother stated he was against it, but her mother said she would love her regardless. She wrote an email to her mother telling her that she was gay and that she hoped her mom meant what she had said. Her mom took three days to talk to her about the email, and when she did, she said she loved her no matter what, but that it was probably just a phase and to not tell anyone else.
Her dad came into her room and just asked if it was a choice or not and said that he loved her. The family's church told her that she could not remain there if she was gay. It took her until she was eighteen to be able to discuss with other people how hard it had all been for her.
This teen, who wanted to remain anonymous, said her first mistake was coming out to her mother. She came out to her mother when she was twelve years old, and her mother said she didn't believe her.
At fourteen years old, her mother kicked her out of the house, and she ended up bouncing between many other people's houses. She stated that it was the hardest thing she had ever gone through, but it also made her so much stronger.
Sara Cunningham's Son
Sara Cunningham spoke of the moment her son came out to her. "Mom, I met someone, and I need you to be okay with it." At first, she admitted that it was very hard for her to be okay with it, saying, "I'm a woman of faith, and we live in a conservative town. It sounds bad to say it, but I felt like I had to choose between my child and faith.
We stood with our son at a Pride Parade in Oklahoma City. It was my first interaction with the community that I was so alienated from my own ignorance and my own fear. I realized this was a beautiful community." She has gone on to inspire others to help, such as Scott Dittman and his 'Free Dad Hugs.'