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.
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