Man attends Pride parade to comfort LGBT people shunned by their families
A man who offered hugs to people abandoned by their families for being gay has called on parents to love their children no matter what.
Howie Dittman from Pennsylvania comforted hundreds of people during last weekend's Pride parade in Pittsburgh.
The father-of-two and a group of friends attended the event wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words 'free dad hugs' and 'free mom hugs'.
He described the stories of two of the people who broke down as they accepted his hugs in a post on Facebook.
One man, he said, had been kicked out of home at 19.
"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."
A woman he hugged, Howie continued, looked at him "with a look of sadness and helplessness that I'll never forget.
"I can't stop thinking about her.
"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?"
Howie asked parents to imagine their child feeling so lost that they'll sink into the arms of a complete stranger who is offering free hugs.
"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."
It couldn't really be put better than that.
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