‘Free dad hugs’: Cincinnati man shares emotional Pride stories, offers continued hugs, talks

‘You are seen. You are Loved,’ he said as part of his message to the LGBTQ+ community

‘Free dad hugs’: Cincinnati man shares emotional Pride stories, offers continued hugs, talks
The ‘free hugs’ t-shirt is not a new concept, something Scott Wherle admitted in his Facebook post. In fact, the supportive gesture has now become a popular thing to do, but the sentiment is not lost. (Credit: Scott Wherle)

CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - June is LGBT Pride Month and Cincinnati held their 46th Annual Pride Festival Saturday.

Saturday’s parade began at 11 a.m. and made it’s way through downtown before the festival began at Sawyer Point.

Thousands packed the area filled with food, drinks, vendors, entertainment and most importantly, pride.

The event is not exclusively for members of the LGBTQ+ community, but also for allies.

One Cincinnati man found out what an emotional experience it can be and bond that can be formed when he wore a ‘free dad hugs’ t-shirt.

The ‘free hugs’ t-shirt is not a new concept, something Scott Wherle admitted in his Facebook post. In fact, the supportive gesture has now become a popular thing to do, but the sentiment is not lost.

“My daughter and I walked in the parade with friends, and it took a while for spectators to warm up to the idea, but they eventually started to ask me for hugs as we walked, and afterwards while attending the festivities at Sawyer Point,” Wherle said in the post.

He said most of the hugs were happy and fun, but a few of them had a much deeper, emotional meaning.

His post describes two interactions that left a lasting impact:

“One of the first hugs I gave, with a sullen look on her face, the girl whispered in my ear, “My dad hates me.” A little later at Sawyer Point, a girl shyly walked up and very politely asked for a hug. There was deep pain in her eyes. We hugged for what seemed like forever, and she grabbed me like she was holding on for dear life. An hour later, standing in line for a sno-cone, a girl pointed to my shirt and told her friend, “Hey, free dad hugs!” The friend walked up to me and didn’t say a word, but the look on her face said everything I needed to know. I asked if she needed a hug, and she nodded yes. She hugged me as if she hadn’t seen me in years, even though we’d never met. She walked away in tears, without ever saying a word.”

Wherle left one final thought in his post to let anyone who needed to hear it, or read it, know he was here for them, “you are seen. You are loved. If your dad isn’t there for you, I will be. Hugs. Talks. Whatever. DMs are open.”

You can read his full post below, WARNING: Graphic language is used.

Today, I decided to wear this shirt to Pride in downtown Cincy. It’s not an original idea to offer “free dad hugs” at...

Posted by Scott Wherle on Saturday, June 22, 2019

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