Here at Baby Buggy, we don't just celebrate dads on Father's Day, we work with exceptional fatherhood programs across the country to let fathers know that they are valued every day. Through our partnerships with high-quality fatherhood initaitives, Baby Buggy encourages fathers from all walks of life to engage more fully with their children.
We kicked off "Father's Month" last week by bringing together a group of leaders from four of the fatherhood programs we partner with in Los Angeles and New York. We began with a tour of our jam-packed warehouse while the rest of our team was preparing for our annual Bedtime Bash carnvial fundraiser in Central Park. The leaders of the fatherhood programs enjoyed seeing firsthand how donated items like baby clothes are sorted, screened, and bundled in preparation for distribution to the dads and children we serve. As we walked by a tall tower of infant bathtubs, one of our partners shared a story of how a bathtub helped one of the dads in his program spend more time with his daughter. This father did not have primary custody of his baby daughter, but after receiving a bathtub and some bath toys from Baby Buggy, his daughter couldn't wait to come to his place, where she can now safely take bubble baths and spend quality time with daddy.
Following our warehouse tour, we dove into a lively discussion covering both the opportunities and challenges that come with working in the fatherhood arena. The program leaders shared how difficult it can be to convince the general public, supporters, and even the dads in their own programs, that the stereotype of the "deadbeat dad" is rarely accurate. So many of the dads in these programs never had dads in their own lives, so everyone is working to break this painful cycle. Everyone agreed that if we really want to improve the lives of low-income children in meaningful ways, fathers must be part of the equation. Together, we will continue to provide these fathers with the tools they need to keep their children happy and healthy.
After a day of "talking shop," we celebrated together at our annual Bedtime Bash carnival the next day. Over 100 low-income children and fathers--from our Bronx Fatherhood program, the Forestdale Fathering Initiative in Queens, and the Father's First program in Far Rockaway--joined the festivities. The families enjoyed a fun summer evening, eating hot dogs and popsicles, riding carnival rides, and making memories. Ronnie, one of the fathers from the Forestdale program, brought his adorable three-month-old daughter Lily in an infant carrier provided by Baby Buggy. Ronnie shared that "being a father means everything to me," and he strolled through the carnival grounds proudly showing off his baby girl. He said that Baby Buggy makes him feel supported as a new father and that the workshops and counseling provided through the Forestdale Fathering Initiative have made him a better father and a better man. It was clear to us from talking with Ronnie that little Lily is one lucky lady! Another highlight of the event was when some of the dads from our programs were able to meet and talk fatherhood with Jerry Seinfeld, a key supporter of our Fatherhood Initiative, and George Stephanopoulos, a long-time donor to Baby Buggy. We are proud to have so many incredible dads in our corner and we thank you for your support of our work. Happy Father's Day!
In addition to providing essential items like car seats, cribs, diapers, and wipes that fathers need to care for their children, Baby Buggy often works with various partners to provide unique opportunities for dads and children to bond, learn, and have fun. Thanks to some generous supporters, we were able to invite a bunch of families from our fatherhood programs to go see the new blockbuster Lego Movie.
While taking your child to a movie may seem like a pretty common experience for most parents, the low-income fathers we serve rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to do something this simple. These fathers do not have the extra income needed to cover the costs of travel, the movie tickets, or even popcorn, which made this particular Saturday a very special day. Because of all the challenges these families face, even finding the time for a special outing with their kids can be tricky.
Baby Buggy knows that making time for bonding and play is a critical component of positive parenting and we were thrilled to be able to help the dads we serve to “build” their relationships with family at this fun day at the movies (couldn’t resist the pun!).
We thought you would enjoy hearing some feedback from four of the dads who attended this event:
“I enjoyed taking Katie for a daddy-daughter date to the city to watch the Lego Movie. We haven't had the opportunity to travel to the city often. The movie was full of clean humor that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.”
-- Garry P.
“We enjoyed the Lego movie very much. Our 13 year old son thought he was too old to go to a “kiddy movie,” but he enjoyed himself so much. The time spent with our grandson, niece, and son was great. The Father’s First group and Baby Buggy are doing a great job making sure fathers and family get to spend quality time together. Keep up the great job. Looking forward to the next event!”
-- David M.
“I really enjoyed taking my son TJ to the movies. It was not only the first time that I took my son to the movies with just us (without the rest of the family), but also the first time that we’ve ever been in Manhattan together! I thought the movie would only be for TJ, but I also found it to be very entertaining. Thank you for this opportunity.”
-- Trevor B.
“Both my son and I really enjoyed the Lego Movie. It was the first time my son Tristan and I had been to the city alone together as well as to the movies alone! Not only did Tristan and I have a great time, he also kept his 3D glasses and brought them to school for show and tell! He was able to brag about the fact that he got to see such a cool movie and has those great glasses.”
-- Suraka S.
In 2010, Baby Buggy launched its Fatherhood Initiative to support fathers who are struggling to play a greater role in the lives of their children. Since that time, we have donated over 160,000 items to fatherhood participants in NYC and LA. Each month, we are going to feature some of the dads who have played a part in making this program happen. This month, it’s Baby Buggy’s own Office Manager, Rick Justiniano. Here is his interview with Baby Buggy’s Executive Director Katherine Snider: KS: When you joined Baby Buggy in 2009, there was only one other man on staff. And you were our first dad. You were a pioneer! What was it about Baby Buggy that appealed to you?
RICK: Helping families- I loved the idea. I loved the idea that it wasn’t just a 9 to 5 job. It was somewhere where you were happy to get up in the morning and come to work.
My parents came here from Puerto Rico in the 1960s. I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of poverty. I saw the importance of giving back. It was always a struggle for my dad, but he worked hard. He was veryresponsible, he always put us first. My mom was a school teacher at PS 173. She was very dedicated, and she told us stories about kids living in really bad situations. My family volunteered a lot at a soup kitchen during the holidays, and we did food drives.
KS: You have two amazing, beautiful daughters. How old are they now?
RICK; Zoe is 12 and Mya is 14. Since I started work at Baby Buggy, the girls have become more consciousabout giving back. They are more appreciative of what they have.
KS: What is your favorite thing to do with your girls?
RICK: Going to the park on Sundays with my girls- when it’s warm. I love having picnics with them. Sundays in the winter start with a big breakfast. We all sit around reading. I read the Times, they do their homework. And then we all make a big dinner.
KS: Since you joined us, we launched our Fatherhood Initiative. What do you think it most interesting orimportant about this initiative?
RICK: Dads are so important to their kids. More important than many think they are. That status quo is that moms are more important. And the system supports that. I know from my own experience that dads often have to fight to be there for their children.
And I love the way we donate. We don’t just give out stuff. We ask fathers to make a commitment to theprogram and to their kids, and reward them for it. Our donations make it easier for them to be parents.
On a beautiful fall Saturday as jets from nearby LaGuardia airport flew overhead in Queens, Baby Buggy celebrated with 71 fathers from all walks of life. These fathers, along with their families, were participating in a "Stepping Up" ceremony to recognize their accomplishments and growth through the Forestdale Fathering Initiative. They have truly become "Kings of Queens!" These fathers have committed to "being forever present and actively involved in the lives they have created." They have participated in numerous trainings on topics including parenting, anger management, healthy relationships, nutrition, and job skills development. These dads spent many hours learning, sharing, and growing, despite the challenges of their other work and family responsibilities.
One father, Cleeford, spoke at the podium to the large audience (over 100!) of fellow dads, family members, and program staff who were there for the ceremony. Cleeford shared that after participating in this fathering program, he believes he is “an entirely new person.” He feels that he now has a deeper and clearer understanding of how to be a better father and how to be a better co-parent with the mother of his son. “Even when I had to leave work early to get here for classes, I always knew it was worth it…for my son and for me.” All of the fathers who shared their stories thanked the Fathering staff many times over and it is clear that strong bonds have been forged between the men participating in this innovative program. They announced that a new alumni group is forming specifically for the dads whose first language is Spanish so they can continue to support each other after graduation in a comfortable, culturally-sensitive way. Other alumni groups continue to meet on an ongoing basis to build on the lessons they have already learned and also to serve as mentors to fathers new to the program.
A highlight of this “Stepping Up” ceremony was when Thabiti Boone of the Allan Houston Foundation shared his own incredible personal story and inspired everyone there. Thabiti did not grow up with an actively-engaged father and was born to a struggling, teen mother. He threw himself into the rigors and joy of basketball as a way to cope with the many challenges he and his family faced. He was overwhelmed when he discovered that, at 19, he was going to be a father. When the mother of his child let him know that she was in no way prepared to be a teen mother, Thabiti stepped up and took his baby with him to college where he played competitive basketball. As a teen, male, single parent, Thabiti said “what I would have given for a Baby Buggy back then....I had to find a way to pay for a crib, a stroller, formula, and diapers, all while trying to study and play ball!” Thabiti’s baby girl is now 30 years old and he has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the challenges of father absence while developing important projects that promote responsible fatherhood.
Baby Buggy is honored to have been a part of this inspirational day and with the help of our generous donors, we will continue to help fathers, both graduates and new participants in fathering initiatives, provide the warm, loving, safe environments their children need to grow and thrive.
June is the perfect month to celebrate fathers from all walks of life and we have been doing just that here at Baby Buggy! Dads from our fatherhood programs in the Bronx and Queens have been working hard over the past year to build on their strengths to become hands-on fathers who are actively involved in the lives of their children. Many will officially graduate this month and we look forward to celebrating with them. One dad, Shane, recently completed the Fathers First program in Far Rockaway and has weathered many personal storms (including Superstorm Sandy!) to become a positive role model for his young daughter. Congratulations Shane!
We also celebrated fatherhood at our annual Baby Buggy Bedtime Bash where 100 participants in our fatherhood programs attended with their children. This fun family carnival held at an amusement park in Central Park is a wonderful Baby Buggy tradition and we were thrilled to have so many of our participant families join us for a beautiful early summer evening filled with games, rides, food, and fun.
Reggie from one of our Queens fatherhood programs attended with his four children and wife Lisa. They all wore paper plate hats made by the famous paper artist "Mr. Cheng" and enjoyed playing with their balloon animals and eating delicious ice cream. And, of course, it was a thrill to meet Elmo and Olivia the Pig too! Reggie said that attending an event like this is a good reminder about how important it is for dads to stay in their children's lives, "Children really need their daddy and if you are not there, you will miss out on all those silly moments...those smiles are priceless."
Rodney from our Bronx fatherhood program also attended the carnival with his 2-year-old triplets and 1-year-old son Rodney, Jr.! Baby Buggy was able to provide Rodney with a much-needed "quad stroller," so he is able to transport his adorable young family around his neighborhood. Needless to say, Rodney has his hands full and with help from supporters like you, we are able to meet the unique needs of low-income dads and their children.
Another young dad from our Bronx fatherhood program, Ronnell, shared with us how Baby Buggy has helped him be an even better father to his 2-year-old daughter Elisha: “I am Mr. Fix-It, the Boo-Boo Patrol, and the Early Bird, who is up first thing in the morning getting my daughter ready for preschool. I’ve had my share of ups and downs and this program has helped me with anger issues and with relationship issues…it helps me be a better father after every get-together.” Parenting is a fun and challenging balancing act for all moms and dads, but with the support of Baby Buggy and the Bronx Fatherhood program, Ronnell is able to build on his strengths and talents. Ronnell has received clothing, diapers, a crib, and a stroller for Elisha from Baby Buggy to help make parenting just a little bit easier as he works to build a happy and healthy life for his family in one of the poorest communities in the U.S. “I am grateful because this really helps relieve the financial burden for me…I appreciate any extra help I can get.”
Baby Buggy has distributed nearly 190,000 items to low-income fathers like Ronnell, Rodney, Reggie, and Shane and we can't think of a better way to celebrate Father's Day than to support all fathers as they work to become happy and healthy role models for their children. Thank you for your support and Happy Father's Day to all!
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