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Helping fathers connect with their children

Family first: from left, APD Bermuda’s Reverend Jahkimmo Smith, Elwood Lambert, Anthony Roberts, Roger Butterfield (partially hidden), Llewelyn Simmons and Stanfield Smith. (Photograph by Adam Zacharias)

A social programme helping fathers to connect with their children is to launch with a pancake breakfast.

All Pro Dads’ new Bermuda chapter is an offshoot of the American programme of the same name, founded in 1997 by Super Bowl-winning American football coach Tony Dungy and Family First CEO Mark Merrill.

Mr Merrill will be the guest speaker at the breakfast, which will take place from 9.30am at the Fairmont Southampton on April 9. The event is open to fathers, father figures and children between the ages of 5 and 17.

Anthony Roberts, chairman of APD Bermuda, said the non-profit organisation was aiming to “inspire fathers to embrace who they are, to love their families well and demonstrate boldness of character as a dad and a husband”.

“Fathers have a huge impact on encouraging, influencing and addressing the developmental needs of their children,” Mr Roberts said yesterday.

He said the creation of All Pro Dads Bermuda came about after he read Tony Dungy’s memoir, Quiet Strength, and his creation of the initiative piqued his interest.

Mr Dungy, whose 18-year-old son, James, committed suicide in 2006, will be unable to visit Bermuda for the breakfast as he will be covering the National Football League draft as a pundit for the NBC network.

Reverend Jahkimmo Smith from the Mount Zion AME Church, which is partnering with APD Bermuda, said that another goal of the programme was to “help fathers to be present in the everyday moments of their children’s lives, so that they can have credibility in the critical moments”.

“Back in the day, a lot of fathers thought that if they brought home a paycheque, that was their only responsibility,” he said. “But the father’s role is so much more important than that.

“We want to send a message to men that regardless of their perceived limitations, economic situations or shortcomings, that they can still be great dads.”

Reverend Smith also quoted a 2008 Father’s Day speech by US President Barack Obama, in which he discussed the “critical” role of fathers in the family. In the speech, the then-presidential candidate decried the potential negative impacts on youngsters that stem from the lack of a paternal figure.

“Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison,” Mr Obama said.

“They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

Llewelyn Simmons, from the Department of Education, another partner group, said APD Bermuda would proactively target schools across the island to encourage their participation.

A variety of sporting and family organisations are also being approached to take part.

• Tickets for the plated breakfast go on sale later this week at Sportseller in Washington Mall, 27th Century Boutique on Reid Street and the Mount Zion AME Church office in Southampton. Entry costs $25 for dads and $20 for children.