Scott “Howie” Dittman doesn’t have to be related to these people in order to show them some good old fashioned fatherly love.

Dittman took up the role of being a surrogate dad for strangers last week when he attended an LGBTQ pride parade in Pittsburgh wearing a tee-shirt that read “Free Dad Hugs”.

Dittman wore the shirt because he had an inkling that there may have been some parade-goers who had experienced familial rejection over their sexuality – and he turned out to be right.

In total, Dittman says that he gave out over 700 hugs over the course of two and a half hours. Though there were many youngsters who were simply happy to have a hug, he said that there were two people who had particularly emotional reactions to his embrace.

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The Pennsylvania dad described his experience with the two hugs in a powerful Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The first hug came from a man who tearfully told Dittman that he had not been able to speak to his parents since they kicked him out of their house for being gay as a 19-year-old.

The other hug came from a woman who simply “hugged him with everything she had.”

“Her story? I don’t know the specifics,” wrote Dittman. “But I know that she saw me from across the street. I wasn’t paying attention.

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“By the time she got to me, she had tears in her eyes,” he added. “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.

Dittman ended his post with a plea for his fellow parents to stick by their kids – no matter their sexuality.

“And 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 wrote.

(WATCH the interview below)

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