UPDATE: A generous donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar all donations given to our “Give a Second Chance” campaign through September 30, the end of our fiscal year. Your donation will now have double impact!
And don’t forget – anyone who donates $100 or more this month will receive a copy of Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance, an inspiring book of photography and stories of dads who have been impacted by National Fatherhood Initiative’s fatherhood programs in their local communities – and by your support that makes our work possible!
One of those dads is Shawn Kennedy, of Mobile, Alabama. NFI’s programs for new dads helped him get the right start in his fatherhood journey and connect heart-to-heart with his brand new baby daughter. Shawn told Lewis Kostiner, author and photographer of Choosing Fatherhood, about what he learned from NFI’s fatherhood program.
Shawn Kennedy […] and his wife lived in a small and lovely vintage South-style bungalow in Mobile. I had spent a few days with his father-in-law, who was taking Milt Scott from National Fatherhood Initiative and me around to meet the fathers in the area. Shawn has this beautiful baby girl in his arms, whom he carried with him all over the house. He even wore a shirt and tie for the picture. After I took the picture, I sat with him at his dining room table, and we talked. He said he was always open to learning how to become a better father. He told me [he] had taken some classes with NFI and learned a great deal about small things about fatherhood he never thought about. He was very clear with me: his family’s faith in the Lord gave him the strength to be a good and loving dad. I imagined he would be, always.
Because of the financial support of friends like you, we are able to help dads like Shawn be involved with their children and build their fathering skills no matter what stage of parenting they are in. Sometimes, the support and inspiration these dads find through our programs is the second chance they and their families need.
Your financial support is crucial to reach more families like Shawn’s. Will you make a donation before September 30? We have almost crossed the finish line for this fiscal year and your donation will be the final push we need to end strong and get started on our plans to help more dads next year.
Thanks for your support!
National Fatherhood Initiative is nearing the close of our fiscal year at the end of September. We have a lot of exciting things planned for FY-2013 and we’re looking forward to bringing you more expert advice for dads, fatherhood perspectives on events in pop culture and the news, and practical resources to help you in your fathering journey.
But we can’t do this without your support. We need to raise an additional $20,000 by the end of the month to enable us to activate the plans we have to change the lives of more dads and families next year.
Marvin Charles of Seattle, Washington, (pictured here with his wife, son, and father) is one of the dads whose life has been touched by National Fatherhood Initiative’s work. His example as a role model and his commitment to helping others is impacting dads in his community who need a second chance.
Marvin’s story was captured by Lewis Kostiner, a photographer who traveled around the country at his own expense to meet dads who participated in NFI’s fathering programs through their local communities. Mr. Kostiner’s photographs and the stories of these families are collected in an inspiring book, Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance.
Mr. Kostiner describes the role that Marvin plays in the lives of other dads and his own son:
Marvin Charles [...] spent most of his time keeping tabs on all the fathers and children in the National Fatherhood Initiative program whom he helped in his district. He picked them up and dropped them off and told them how to do this and how to do that. He never looked down on any of them, and his presence helped organize and prepare the children for their everyday journeys and, for the men, fatherhood. His clients struggled daily to survive, and he knew it. He did what he could to help them along. […] Marvin was a real community organizer, in the true sense. He was […] [there] to help kids and their dads. In his son's eyes, Marvin could easily have been elected Mayor of Seattle. Marvin carried his family's picture around with him all day long on his T-shirt, right in front of his heart.
Marvin and the dads he helps represent real-life families whose lives have been changed through NFI's work. These "second chances" are possible because of the support of people just like you.
Will you help us give a second chance to more families in the next year?
Donate $100 or more today and we will send you a FREE copy of Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance.
If you can't donate $100 or more, any amount will make a difference in helping us reach our goal for the fiscal year and start next year on the right foot! Thanks for your support!
This is a guest blog post by best-selling author Brad Meltzer on his just-released book,
Heroes for My Daughter.
I was sleeping. Soundly. And then my pregnant wife shook me awake.
I think the babys coming, she told me.
It was four in the morning.
Go back to bed, I pleaded. Its too early.
God bless my wife, she actually tried to go back to bed.
But my little unborn daughter had her own ideas.
Believe me when I say, that wouldnt be the last time.
At the hospital, the instant I saw my daughter for the first time, my heart doubled in size. My own mother told me at the time, Now youll understand how I love you.
After giving us a few moments with her, the nurses did their usual weighing and measuring, and then said they wanted to whisk her off for her first bath.
Im coming with you, I told them, determined to protect her.
They smiled that smile they save for new parents and reassured me, Shell be fine. We have her.
But as I looked down at my beautiful, teeny, amazing daughter
No way was I ever letting her out of my sight. Thankfully, the nurses put up with me, and let me pretend I was some old parental veteran as I helped give my daughter her first bath. Later, as I sat there, rocking in the rocking chair they gave me and holding her close, I still remember all the dreams I was dreaming for her.
I didnt want just one thing for my daughter. I wanted everything. If she needed strength, I wanted her to be strong. If she saw someone hurting, I wanted her to find the compassion to help. If there was a problem, big or small, that no one could solve, I wanted her to have every available skill - ingenuity, empathy, creativity, perseverance - so she could attack that problem in a way that no one else on this entire planet had ever fathomed. And that would be her greatest gift: That no one - and I mean no one - would ever be exactly like my Lila.
I still believe that. I do. Im a mushy dad. And it was in those first moments of blind idealism and unbridled naïveté that I resolved to write a book for her.
Yes, Id been down this road before. I started a similar book on the night my son was born. The goal was to write this book over the course of my childrens lives - that Id fill it with all the advice they needed to be good people. I began that night:
1. Love God.
2. Help the kids who need it.
My plan was to add more ideas as she grew older, and eventually, on the day when I presented this book to her, shed realize I was indeed the greatest father of all time (I had a parade planned for myself as well).
Thankfully, during your first few years, I realized my cliché, self-important plan was just that. It hit me after thinking about my own life and after my friend Simon Sinek told me this amazing story about the Wright Brothers: Every time Orville and Wilbur Wright went out to fly their plane, they would bring extra materials for multiple crashes. That way, when they crashed, they could rebuild the plane and try again. Think of that for a moment: every time they went out - every time - they knew they were going to fail. But thats what they did: Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild. And thats why they finally took off.
I love that story. I wanted my daughter to hear that story. I wanted my sons to hear that story. I wanted everyone in this world to know that if you dream big
and work hard
and have a good side-order of stubbornness
you can do anything in this world.
Soon after, my new plan was born. I wouldnt give my kids a book of rules. Id give them a book of heroes. And in that, Id give them absolute proof that anything is possible.
Following birth order, I first wrote Heroes for My Son
, which was published two years ago. At the time, I was simultaneously writing the book for my daughter, and not just because my daughter kept coming up to my office and demanding, Wheres my book? (which she did). Over the past six years, as I began my collection of heroes, I always knew Id have to split them between a book for my sons and a book for my daughter.
For that reason, I worked hard to divide the heroes equally. My son got more male heroes; my daughter got more female (in the exact same ratio, down to the exact percentage, so thered be no arguing about which side was better).
Think Im nuts? Wait till you have more than one kid. Like Switzerland, my parental goal was to keep all parties neutral, so all my children would feel equal love, equal respect, equal life lessons. Am I insane? I have three kids. Of course Im insane. But (to steal my mothers phrase), for those three little blessings, Id saw off my own arm. And so, feeling like a 21st-century parent (so progressive I couldnt even see, much less acknowledge, gender differences), I began to write these two equal books filled with equally amazing heroes.
But heres the thing. Along the way, something happened.
When I handed in the manuscript for my daughters book, the editor came back with a surprising reply. She noticed that I kept overusing one word throughout the manuscript.
By her count, fourteen of the fifty profiles had the word fight or fighter in it.
As she pointed out, Some of them, like Abigail Adams, Winston Churchill, Hannah Senesh, Thurgood Marshall, were literally fighters, so of course the term should stay there. But I also used it with Audrey Hepburn, Helen Keller, Teddy Roosevelt, Nancy Brinker
even with Lisa Simpson and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama! Even in the pacifist, I sought a fighter. And yes, that probably highlights my lack of descriptive ability. But it also raises a vital question.
After years of trying to keep this book for my daughter perfectly equal to the book for my sons - after years of trying to teach them the exact same lessons - why did I focus so intently on making sure that my daughter knew how to fight? Why did I keep using that word? Why, subconsciously or not, was that the lesson I kept coming back to?
Its not a complex answer. Part of its because Im still trying to protect her (even if I dont like to admit it). Indeed, when my daughter was three, and first learning to swim, she used to jump in the pool, sink down to the bottom, and then pop up and shout, with a huge grin on her face, Im okay! We used to laugh at it, especially as it became her personal catchphrase every time she went underwater: Im okay! Im okay! Im okay!
But looking back, why did Lila keep yelling, Im okay? Because someone (read: me) kept asking, Are you okay?
Yet the other part of the answer is because my dreams for my daughter today are different than the ones on the day she was born. Sure, I still want everything for her. I always will. But - and Im just being honest here - I do want my daughter to learn how to fight.
Its the dream that links every single hero I picked out. In this book for my daughter, every hero is a fighter. And as I tell my daughter, no matter what stage of life youre in, when you want something - no matter how impossible it seems - you need to fight for it. When you believe in something, fight for it. And when you see injustice, fight harder than youve ever fought before.
To see the results, I picked out the story of Marie Curie, who never stopped pushing science forward, even when she was dying from the radiation she was studying
or the Three Stooges (yes, laugh if you want), who were the first ones to make fun of Adolf Hitler onscreen, nearly two years before Pearl Harbor
or the story of Billie Jean King, who challenged (and beat!) the pig-headed man who told her that women were weaker than men.
Women are not weaker. It was perhaps the most important lesson in there. I needed my daughter to hear that: Women are not weaker. They are just as strong, just as resolute, just as creative, and are filled with just as much potential as any man. Yes, as her father, my instinct is to protect her (like that first day with the nurses). Other people will want to protect her too. But she needs to know that she is not a damsel in distress, waiting for some prince to rescue her. Forget the prince. With her brain and her resourcefulness, she can rescue herself. And when she has her doubts - as we all inevitably do - shed have this book, full of people who were wracked with just as much fear, but who also found the internal strength to overcome it.
From Amelia Earhart, to Teddy Roosevelt, to every person I picked, shed have the stories of women and men who were no different from any of us. We may lionize them and put them on pedestals. But never forget this: No one is born a hero. Every person I picked for my daughter had moments where they were scared and terrified. Like you. Like me. So how did they achieve what they achieved? Because whatever their dreams were, big or small - for their country, for their family, or even for themselves - they never stopped fighting for what they loved.
We all are who we are, until that moment when we strive for something greater.
Is that schmaltzy and naïve? I hope so. Because I wanted my daughter to learn those things too.
As for the most important hero in the book, yes, I included my wife. And my grandmother. But for me, the most vital hero is my mother, Teri Meltzer, who died from breast cancer three years ago. On the day my publisher was shutting down, and no one was there to take over my contract, I thought I was watching my career deteriorate. So I called my Mom and told her how scared I was. She told me, I'd love you if you were a garbage man. It wasn't anything she practiced. Those were just her honest feelings in that moment. And to this day, every day I sit down to write, I say those words to myself, soaking in the purity of my Mom's love. Id love you if you were a garbage man. My hero.
Yet for you, dear reader, the most important page in my daughters book is the last one, because it's blank. It says Your Heros Photo Here and Your Heros Story Here. And I promise you, you take a photo of your Mom, or Grandparent, or teacher, or a military member of your family, and you put their picture in there, and write one sentence of what they mean to you; that will be the most beautiful page in Heroes For My Daughter
. And the best present we can give all our children: the reminder that it is indeed ordinary people who change the world. Thats way stronger than any upper-cut.
Today, my gift is complete. Ive finished my daughters book. The book is my dream for her. And when my daughter has doubts, there is strength in the book. When shes ready to give up, theres motivation inside. And when she has questions, there are answers inside. But I hope, as every hero proves, the best answers will always come from whats within herself.Brad Meltzer is the #1 bestselling author of
The Inner Circle and the host of
Brad Meltzers Decoded on the History Channel.
Heroes For My Daughter will be published April 10th. This article originally appeared in
Spirit Magazine by Southwest Airlines.
This is a guest post by Ave Mulhern, NFI's Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity Building Initiative. She shares her memories of exploring the great outdoors with her dad as a child as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."
Being in the great outdoors was not a big part of my upbringing. I tend to be more comfortable in the great indoors.
That being said, I do remember some wonderful times being out and about with my father who had a love of books and trees. I am the sixth child of a family of eight. Five boys first, then three girls - I am the first girl. In a way, we were like two separate families. The wild, older boys were all car fanatics and they worked in my fathers business, a service station. When we girls came along, my dad was obviously an older, kinder and gentler version of a father. Dont get me wrong, he was always a bit of a grump and in his later years, he was called (to his face) Grumps. This probably was due to a disappointing life for a bright and scholarly man on his way to becoming an attorney who ended up owning a service station fixing peoples cars. Life happens, but with this latter, gentler, girl family he was able to leave the grease behind, for a bit, and have an attentive audience of three to spend time with and share his love of learning - and we believed he knew just about everything.
My father Cornelius (aka Connie) was an avid reader. I can barely muster up a mental image of him not reading a book. He loved history books, business and real estate books, biographies, and nature books. In the summer, he literally took us to the library every single week and if we didn't bicker in the car, we might get an ice cream at Chernoffs Pharmacy. He took us to quirky old used bookstores and he owned a lot of books. One collection was the little Golden Field Guides - you know, those little pocket sized nature books titled Birds of North America
, Rocks and Minerals
, and SeaShells of North America
? I suppose they have versions for other areas than North America? But the one I remember most is Trees of North America
. I still have it around here somewhere.
Dad would drive to nearby Morris Arboretum armed with the little tree book and he would send us off to identify certain trees. I once successfully spotted a Beech tree based on his vivid description of how the enormous and magnificent branches grow out and down to touch the ground like a giant 70-foot-wide shrub - but underneath, those low branches create a sort of house or fort that you could play in. He reminded us that these trees must be planted with enough foresight to ensure the proper setting and enough room to mature into their magnificence. Dad drove us around town showing us where the township built the sidewalk around a 200-year-old oak tree preserving it for the future. We saw distinctive Horse Chestnut trees with spring flowers and fall conkers (nuts), the toxic but valuable Black Walnut trees, the beautiful star-shaped leaves of the Sweet Gum tree and the really wretched smelling fruit of the prehistoric female Gingko tree. (The male version doesnt stink!)
To this day, there are two specimens of those magnificent beech trees, properly placed mind you, on the front lawn of a beautiful estate home nearby. I never pass by them without thinking fondly of my dad and our somewhat-outdoor adventures. My own children were not as interested as my sisters and I but right now I am looking for that little Trees of North America
field guidebook so I can take it with me to Wisconsin to share with our grandchildren. Hey, is Wisconsin considered North America?
There is a great new father-son book out called Heroes for My Son
, by best-selling thriller writer, Brad Meltzer.
Asked why he wrote the book, Brad shared this humorous and moving answer:
"It began the night my first son was born. I was stuck at a red light, and I remember looking up at the black sky and thinking of this baby boy we were just blessed with. Thats when I asked myself the question for the very first time: What kind of man did I want my son to be? ... at that moment, I decided that I wanted to write a book over the course of my sons life-and then when I eventually gave it to him, hed realize what a brilliant father I was. Id assumed Norman Rockwell would of course be resurrected to paint the moment, because it would be that perfect.
But the book was just a list of silly platitudes -- until a friend of mine told me this story about the Wright Brothers: Every day Orville and Wilbur Wright went out to fly their plane, they would bring enough materials for multiple crashes. That way, when they crashed, they could rebuild the plane and try again. Think about it a moment: every time they went out-every time-they knew they were going to fail. But thats what they did: Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild. And thats why they finally took off.
... thats the kind of story I wanted my son to hear: a story that wouldnt lecture to him, but would show him that if he was determined
if he wasnt afraid to fail
if he had persistence (and a side order of stubbornness), the impossible becomes possible.
Since that time, Ive been collecting heroes for this book, which has been one of the most rewarding projects of my life."
NFI highly recommends this collection of stories about the people throughout history who can inspire your children to greatness in both the big things and the small things. It is perfect for bed-time reading, as each story is short, inspiring, and to the point.
We will be previewing one of the hero stories in next week's Dad Email. Click here to sign up for the Dad Email - it's free! Buy Heroes for My Son here.