Father goes viral after giving out hundreds of free hugs at Pittsburgh Pride Parade

One proud father is going viral after emotional photos of him surfaced giving out free hugs at Pittsburgh's Pride Parade on Sunday. 

Howie Dittman joined other mothers and fathers at the city's pride celebration, the largest in the city's history, on June 9th. Each parent donned t-shirts emblazoned with supportive words like "Free Dad Hugs" or "Free Mom Hugs" -- and with those supportive words, Dittman estimates he gave hundreds of hugs that day. 

After hearing the hundreds of stories from the emotional day, the Pittsburgh father shared photos and an inspiring message on Facebook, which has since gone on to be shared over 200,000 times.

In the post, he explains that some of the hugs were happy, while others were much more heartbreaking. The snapshot shows a tank top-clad Dittman embracing a man and a young girl, both of whom were more emotional than anything.  

"Let me tell you about these two," Dittman began. "He was kicked out at 19 when his parents found out. They haven't spoken to him since. He cried on my shoulder. Sobbed."

He continued, " 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 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 although he didn't get the young girl's full story, Dittman expressed how her look of "sadness" and "helplessness" is one he will never, ever forget. 

71 PHOTOS
Pride 2019: Photos from around the world
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Pride 2019: Photos from around the world
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Actress Alia Shawkat is seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 9, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - 2019/06/09: A participant at the LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California. The 49th annual gay pride parade includes a music festival and a parade that draws large crowds. (Photo by Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - 2019/06/09: Participants at the LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California. The 49th annual gay pride parade includes a music festival and a parade that draws large crowds. (Photo by Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - 2019/06/09: Gloria Allred participates in the LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California. The 49th annual gay pride parade includes a music festival and a parade that draws large crowds. (Photo by Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: TV personality Ariana Madix seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - 2019/06/09: People carry a huge rainbow flag during the LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California. The 49th annual gay pride parade includes a music festival and a parade that draws large crowds. (Photo by Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Gloria Allred seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - 2019/06/09: A participants at the LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California. The 49th annual gay pride parade includes a music festival and a parade that draws large crowds. (Photo by Ronen Tivony / SOPA Images/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants kiss at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Participants seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
Thousands attend the annual Philly Pride Parade celebrating the LGBTQI Community and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, in Philadelphia, PA, on June 9, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Thousands attend the annual Philly Pride Parade celebrating the LGBTQI Community and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, in Philadelphia, PA, on June 9, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Thousands attend the annual Philly Pride Parade celebrating the LGBTQI Community and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, in Philadelphia, PA, on June 9, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 09: Playing Frankenfurter from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," Lauren Montgomery, 34, rides in a truck making its way through the procession during the Motor City Pride Parade on June 9, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 09: Kevin Wainczak, 22, of Plymouth, Michigan, waits to march alongside other participants during the Motor City Pride Parade on June 9, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 09: Members of the Allstate Insurance Company walk through the streets during the Motor City Pride Parade on June 9, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 09: Members of Groove Entertainment and other participants relax on the side of a building before the Motor City Pride Parade on June 9, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 8: Travis Roe, AKA Sister Sandra Music, of the Boston Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, arrives at the Boston Pride Parade on June 8, 2019. Boston Prides 49th march for LGBTQ equality is expected to be the largest in Pride history with more than 430 contingents, 45,000-50,000 participants and over 750,000 spectators. (Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 8: Members of Hopedale Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) cheer at the start of the Boston Pride Parade on June 8, 2019. Boston Prides 49th march for LGBTQ equality is expected to be the largest in Pride history with more than 430 contingents, 45,000-50,000 participants and over 750,000 spectators. (Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 8: A crowd of people cheer on those participating in the Capital Pride Parade in Washington on Saturday June 8, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 8: A couple kisses after getting engaged as they participate in the Capital Pride Parade in Washington on Saturday June 8, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 8: Sen. Paul Strauss, D-N.Y., throws a necklace into the crowd as he participates in the Capital Pride Parade in Washington on Saturday June 8, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 8: A crowd of people cheer on those participating in the Capital Pride Parade in Washington on Saturday June 8, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 8: A man reaches over a fence to grab a piece of candy thrown to the crowd in the Capital Pride Parade in Washington on Saturday June 8, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 8: Spectators watch the annual Capital Pride Parade which takes place in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2019. Representatives and members of more than 200 organizations marched the 1.5-miles-long route throughout Dupont and Logan Circle neighborhoods. The parade was organized by Capital Pride Alliance with the intention to "celebrate, educate, support, and inspire" about the LGBTQ community. This year Capital Pride also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which is considered the beginning of the gay rights movement. (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - 2019/06/08: Thousands of people march at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Rome. (Photo by Leo Claudio De Petris/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - 2019/06/08: Thousands of people march at the annual Gay Pride Parade in Rome. (Photo by Leo Claudio De Petris/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People take part in the LGBT Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. June 8, 2019. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: A crowd marches through Warsaw during the Warsaw Pride. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: Mayor of Warsaw, Rafal Trzaskowski speaks in support during the Warsaw Pride. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: A lesbian couple holding their hands during the Equality March. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: LGBT people perform on a truck platform during the Warsaw Pride. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 8: New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson dances with other members of the city council at Brooklyn's annual Gay Pride Parade as it travels down the narrow street of 5th Avenue on June 8, 2019 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 8: Marchers and spectators mix and mingle as Brooklyn's annual Gay Pride Parade travels down the narrow street of 5th Avenue on June 8, 2019 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: LGBT people perform on a truck platform during the Warsaw Pride. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: Two gay man pose in "Warsaw Pride" t-shirts during the Equality March. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: A man waves a huge rainbow flag during the Warsaw Pride. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 8: New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson dances with other members of the city council at Brooklyn's annual Gay Pride Parade as it travels down the narrow street of 5th Avenue on June 8, 2019 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
WARSAW, MAZOWIECKIE, POLAND - 2019/06/08: A young man poses with a rainbow flag and a cat mask during the Warsaw Pride. The Equality March also called the Warsaw Pride parade, brought thousands of people to the streets of Warsaw, at the time when the gay rights movement in Poland is under siege by hate speech and a government campaign depicting it as a threat to families and society. (Photo by Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 8: Marchers and spectators mix and mingle as Brooklyn's annual Gay Pride Parade travels down the narrow street of 5th Avenue on June 8, 2019 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 8: New York State Attorney General Letitia James joins marchers and spectators at Brooklyn's annual Gay Pride Parade as it travels down the narrow street of 5th Avenue on June 8, 2019 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
ROME, ITALY - JUNE 08: People march in the annual Gay Pride parade,on June 8, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Getty Images,)
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"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," he shared.

He continued:

"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."

"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," Dittman concluded the post. "Think of the depths of their pain. Try to imagine how deep those cuts must be."

The father's inspiring words have since resonated with thousands of individuals, parents, friends and those struggling with their identity. "I can’t understand how a parent could turn their back on their child!" wrote one Facebook user. 

"My daughter came out last year I wanted her to know I am her biggest supporter! I took her to LA pride last year and I got a shirt that says proud mom," said another. "I never expected that total strangers would come up to tell me their stories or just ask for a hug!"

Related: Stars show their pride

23 PHOTOS
Stars celebrate LA Pride
See Gallery
Stars celebrate LA Pride
Paula Abdul arrives at LA Pride 2019 on June 07, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)
Lisa Vanderpump seen at the LA Pride Parade on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
Meghan Trainor performs at day 2 of LA Pride 2019 on June 07, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 08: Blac Chyna and Wendy Williams attend LA Pride 2019 on June 8, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

Halle Berry celebrated at the LA Pride Parade on behalf of "5B" while wearing a pin representing Johnson & Johnson's longstanding efforts to #MakeHIVHistory on Sunday in West Hollywood, California.

(Credit: Chris Tuite)

Troye Sivan attended the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood presented by Verizon. (Credit: Chris Tuite)
PRIDE bitchessssssss!! 🌈
Heidi Klum attended the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood presented by Verizon. (Credit: Chris Tuite)
Laverne Cox attended the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood presented by Verizon. (Credit: Chris Tuite)
HAPPY PRIDE!!! 💜❤️💙💛
Paula Abdul performs at the 2019 LA Pride Festival in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Tinashe attended the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood presented by Verizon. (Credit: Chris Tuite)
love is love. happy pride!! 🌈❤️🧡💛💚💙💜
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Lisa Origliasso and Jessica Origliasso of the The Veronicas performs during the LA Pride 2019 on June 09, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
Olly Alexander of Years & Years performed at the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood presented by Verizon. (Credit: Chris Tuite)
Ashanti performed at the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood presented by Verizon. (Credit: Chris Tuite)
So much love and happiness and sweating and glitter on the @lyft float at #lapride 🏳️‍🌈💋
Lisa Vanderpump attends the opening ceremony at LA Pride 2019 on June 07, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
My Uber’s here, off to #LAPRIDE 🖤🖤
Gia Gunn attended the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade in West Hollywood presented by Verizon. (Credit: Chris Tuite)
happy PRIDE 🌈 babies!! LOVE is LOVE. ❤️🧡💛💚💙
HAPPY PRIDE 🌈🏖 @barbdoeshair #surbeachclub
Beauty guru Patrick Starrr hosted the It Gets Better Project Poolside Pride Celebration at The Standard Hollywood, with a surprise DJ set by GRiZ. (Photo: Adam Southard for It Gets Better Project)
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