Wednesday, June 29, 2011


If you follow this blog at all, you probably have the impression that NFI gives out awards, talks about how important fatherhood is, and comments on popular culture a lot.

While we do all of those things, and they are an important part of our mission, the thing that really drives us is not often mentioned on this blog. That “thing” is the fact that we are, by far, the “#1 provider of fatherhood resources in the country.”

What does that mean? First, “fatherhood resources” are skill-building materials we have developed over the last 17 years to help dads become the best dads they can be. These are curricula that are taught in classroom settings, brochures, CD-ROMs, and other materials filled with information to help dads become more effective in raising their kids.

Second, what we mean by “provider” is that we work day in and day out to build the capacity of community-based organizations all over the country to help them do a better job of serving fathers. We build their capacity primarily by providing them with our resources, and training them on how to deliver our programs.

By “#1” we mean that we have trained over 7,600 practitioners from over 3,500 organizations since 2002. We have distributed nearly 5.8 million fatherhood resources since 2004. No other provider of fatherhood resources even comes close.

In other words, the primary impact that National Fatherhood Initiative has is that we make it possible for hundreds of thousands of fathers to receive the support they need in their communities by equipping their local organizations with the world’s best fatherhood skill-building materials.

So, in a way, that is what we REALLY do here at NFI.

If you have any questions about why and how we do this, let us know!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

“Super” Motivated by Their Dads

It seems if you want to be a superhero these days, you need to have some “drama” with your father.

The title characters in the two big superhero movies I have seen this summer, Thor and The Green Lantern, are motivated primarily by their relationships with their fathers.

This is noteworthy, because I think it is part of a larger trend in Hollywood that I started tracking when I wrote my master’s thesis 4 years ago on the depiction of fathers in blockbuster movies.

In Thor, brothers Thor and Loki compete for their father Odin’s love and attention. Thor, the older of the two, is the rightful heir, which causes jealousy on Loki’s part. Nevertheless, Odin banishes Thor from their home planet of Asgard due to his reckless behavior, which he sees as making him unfit to be king.

Without spoiling the film or going into too much detail, one of Thor’s primary motivators for the remainder of the film is to prove to his father that he has what it takes to follow in his father’s footsteps and be king.

In The Green Lantern, hero Hal Jordan’s humble beginnings include seeing his combat pilot father killed in a jet crash. Right before the horrific scene unfolds, young Hal asks his dad “Are you afraid?” to which his father replies, “It’s my job not to be.”

Thus, Hal spends the first few decades of his life behaving recklessly to prove that he, too, is not afraid of anything. He also becomes a daring fighter pilot, like his father before him. In fact, the very reason he is chosen to be a Green Lantern is because he is seemingly fearless. He of course is not fearless, but is successful in his superhero endeavors because he has a certain humanity, provided by his stark memories of his father, that allow him to overcome his fear.

I enjoyed both films, although they certainly had their flaws. The strong fatherhood themes made them interesting enough for fun summer entertainment. The fact that I saw both films in stunning “Real 3D” had, of course, nothing to do with my enjoyment of them.

The question I have for our readers is this: What do you think it means that the writers of these stories (which of course got their start as comic books many years ago) decided that the most compelling motivators for these superheroes were their relationships with their fathers?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father's Day Recap: Part 2

As promised yesterday, here are some more highlights of what we did this Father's Day to promote our work of connecting fathers to their children, heart to heart.

  • We released the sixth edition of our flagship research resource, Father Facts. This story from The Washington Times puts Father Facts in the context of the fatherhood news of the day. Father Facts 6, like all previous editions of Father Facts, has been distributed to key members of Congress, government officials, and members of the press. You can learn more about Father Facts 6 and order it here.

  • NFI president, Roland C. Warren, spoke on a panel at the HBO premiere of The Kids Grow Up, a documentary about a dad learning to let go of his daughter as she leaves for college. NFI was an official non-profit partner for the film. The documentary aired on HBO on Father's Day, and will air again tonight at 9:30 eastern. If you want to see it, but don't have HBO, buy the DVD and a portion of the sales will go to NFI!

  • We launched our new "Be a Dad" television PSA (public service advertisement). Be a Dad inspires fathers to spend time with their children. Be a Dad has been distributed to virtually every TV station in the country, so look out for it on your local stations. In fact, if you see Be a Dad on TV, send us an email and let us know which station you saw it on (we may send you a free book or something if you do this).
That about does it for the major stuff we did this Father's Day. But as you can imagine, pretty much every day is like Father's Day here at NFI. And we have a lot of work to do to ensure that every child grows up with an involved, responsible, and committed father, every day of the year.

If you are able, please consider supporting us financially to help us continue this important work. And keep checking in with us here, on Twitter, and on Facebook as we roll out all of our new projects over the next several months.

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Father's Day Was Busy!

We joke around here at NFI that on Father's Day, like one of those blowout sales, "Everything must go, go, go!"

This year was no exception, as we were fortunate to have a lot of great opportunities to spread the simple message that kids need good dads.

Here are a few highlights of some of the things we did:
  • We gave Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat superstar, a 2011 Fatherhood Award. Here he is on CNN on Father's Day talking about the award and about being a dad.
  • We honored LS1 Christopher Cady, US Navy, with the 2011 Military Fatherhood Awardin a ceremony near his base, Naval Base Kitsap, in Bremerton, WA. Cady was also honored at the White House as a Champion of Change. Read about Chris on the White House website here.
  • We gave Nissan a Fatherhood Award for its funny and heartwarming TV spot, "Baby." Go to Nissan's news site to see the ad and a photo of NFI president, Roland C. Warren, handing the Fatherhood Award to VP of Nissan Marketing John Brancheau, who posted on this blog last week!
We had so much going on that I did not want to post it all at once. More to come tomorrow, including an HBO documentary, a new fatherhood research book, and more!

Friday, June 17, 2011

My First Father's Day

This post was submitted by NFI's Manager of Outreach, Brittany DeFrehn. Brittany is currently out on maternity leave enjoying her new precious little girl, Adalynn.

Just a month ago my first child was born, a little girl, and thinking about this upcoming Father's Day makes me smile. I realize that in my life, it is the first time I will get to celebrate father's day. You may not be surprised for a first time father to be so excited, but I'm not the father...I'm the mother.

You see, I have never celebrated Father's Day before because my dad was never part of my life. As a child, Father's Day was a day for cookouts and for power tool ads on TV. It was a day for the other kids to make cards for their daddy's at school. What's sad is, I know that I am not alone in this experience. I know that there is an entire generation of children evolving into parents who will only now celebrate Father's Day as fathers or mothers themselves - An entire generation who only now know the meaning of daddy.

I don't know how you will celebrate Father's Day, but I do hope you have a reason to celebrate - every child and adult deserves a loving father. I know I plan to celebrate my daughter's amazing dad, and for the first time, I plan on making a card from a little girl to her daddy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

NFI honors Dwyane Wade with Fatherhood Award

The result of the NBA Championship Finals on Sunday may not have been what Dwyane Wade and his Miami Heat teammates had hoped for, but Dwyane Wade knows that there are more important things in life than championship rings – his two sons.

Dwyane Wade recently gained full custody of his young sons, Zaire and Zion. Despite the time constraints of being a professional athlete, Wade’s number one priority is being involved in his sons’ lives. It’s for his commitment to his sons that NFI is recognizing Dwyane Wade with a Fatherhood Award. (Click here to read the press release.)

In response to receiving the Fatherhood Award, Wade said, "I am so thrilled to be given this award, especially because it is in recognition of the most important thing in my life, my kids. Nothing in the world compares to the happiness that they bring me each and every day. I know that my biggest responsibility is to be there for them 100% and to demonstrate to other fathers that it is possible to be a strong male figure in your children's lives regardless of what else is going on in your life."

Congratulations to Dwyane Wade! Thanks for being a great role model of an involved, responsible, and committed father!

Update (9/16/11): On August 25th, at his Wade's World Weekend basketball camp, Dwyane Wade was presented with his Fatherhood Award by NFI president Roland C. Warren (photo).

Military Children are the Real Award Winners

Today, NFI’s Vice President of Public Relations, Vince DiCaro is in Bremerton Washington, awarding our 2011 Military Fatherhood Award winner, Chris Cady. As we have said, Chris embodies a wonderful example of a military dad who displays an ongoing commitment and dedication to his son while balancing military life and mentoring other military fathers/children, specifically those with special needs. Vince will present the award to Chris in front of his Commanding Officer, family and peers, with Press at the ready. A truly special occasion.

But honestly, what’s so special about this award presentation?

While at first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything entirely special about an award presentation on our winner’s military base, it truly symbolizes so much more. Every day, many of America’s 1.8 million military children struggle with difficult situations and emotions that are foreign to non-military children. They watch their dad’s plane take off to a distant land and agonize that they may never return.

Have you ever considered that data on military children shows that they experience many of the same outcomes as children who live in father absent homes? When you really think about it, it makes sense. Military children experience increased depression, heightened behavior problems, lower academic achievement, etc.

It’s for this reason, that NFI is sure to honor military dads - in front of their peers – to encourage all military dads to go the extra mile and be a dad to their kids, and even to other children, in their area of influence.

Going beyond the award...

In fact, NFI goes beyond just giving one special military dad an award each year. We’re committed to working with the military to increase the number of installations who offer fatherhood programs to educate military dads and provide them with the skill-building resources they need to be involved, responsible, and committed dads, before, during, and after deployment.

We can all agree that our military servicepersons deserve our utmost support, and it’s our honor, with the help of donors and supporters, that we build up NFI’s “Strong Fathers, Strong Families Fund” to provide valuable fatherhood programming to military installations, which in turn provides innovative ways for military children to stay connected to dad while he’s deployed. Consider supporting this worthy cause.

Military children are the true award winners when military dads are equipped to be the best dads they can be.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Post: Be a Dad: Fatherhood is all about balance

This is a guest post by Jon Brancheau, Vice President, Nissan Marketing. Jon will accept a Fatherhood Award from National Fatherhood Initiative this Friday, recognizing Nissan for their father-friendly ad "Baby." (Click here to watch the ad). Jon is a father of three and shared his thoughts with us as part of NFI's Be A Dad campaign.

To Be a Dad is an awesome, incredible, and honored responsibility.

I’m the father of three kids… blessed with my two boys through adoption and my daughter shortly thereafter. My kids are 12, 15 and 17 now and in reflection of what I’ve learned, I would say that the key for me has simply been “balance.” Fatherhood is all about balance… just like the guy in our “Baby” ad.

A balanced obligation between the kids and the workplace is a good start. Prioritizing the time for my kids sporting events and recitals has proved important. I want to be visible for them at these events and will go out of my way to attend some during inconvenient business hours. Trust me, they get it and appreciate it. In the end, I try not to let my kids come up short on the “balance of work-life” scale.

Staying with the idea of balance… How about the simple balance between trying to teach your kids vs. listening to them? Listening has worked for me so far and the kids continue to teach me something new every single day.

Champion of Change… And a Whole Lot More

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of accompanying LS1 Christopher Cady, US Navy, to a special ceremony at the White House honoring great dads. Cady is, of course, National Fatherhood Initiative’s 2011 Military Fatherhood Award winner, and, as part of its Champions of Change initiative, the White House wanted to further honor him during its week of activities leading up to Father’s Day this Sunday.

It was quite an event. What struck me the most was the incredible stories that dads told of overcoming enormous obstacles to not only be involved in their own children’s lives, but to be “double duty dads” to other children in their communities. One father was a gang leader who was incarcerated; another witnessed horrible violence in his home growing up; another was abandoned by both of his parents… the list goes on. Yet, in the face of these huge obstacles, from which many people would have turned and run, they hung in there for the simplest, yet most important reason in the world… their kids.

Of course, there is our very own Christopher Cady. As you may know from his nomination video, Chris is the primary caretaker for his severely disabled son, Joshua. Chris is Joshua’s eyes, ears, arms and legs. He is everything to his son.

Being a dad can be tough. Being a military dad can be even tougher. Being a military dad with a special needs child… well, you get the point. But Chris has shown an enormous amount of perseverance, and I finally have a hint as to why.

Having met Chris in person for the first time yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice how calm of a guy he is. He takes everything in stride. He is always pleasant. In other words, he has exactly the kind of patient attitude he needs in order to be the kind of dad his son needs.

That is a point we make here at NFI a lot. Roland, NFI’s president, said on The Oprah Winfrey Show a few years ago, “You can’t be the kind of dad you wanted to have. You can’t be the kind of dad you want to be. You have to be the kind of dad your children need you to be.” I don’t think Chris saw that episode of Oprah, but he is certainly living by those words.

And not only that, he is working hard to make life better for all military dads, especially ones with special needs children. He is a Command Exceptional Family Member Coordinator and helps service members seek out information and resources for their children. On a local community level, he is a mentor for the Military Special Needs Group, the Special Education Advisory Committee, and the Kitsap Fathers Network. And more…

Chris didn’t just stop with his own son – he realized that to move from “good to great” he would have to help all of the other sons and daughters out there who deserve good dads.

In other words, he is a Champion of Change.

A video of Chris’ day at the Champions for Change event will be available at next week. Chris will be presented with his 2011 Military Fatherhood Award tomorrow near his base in Bremerton, WA.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In my world, what it means to “Be A Dad”

Clearly, I’m not a dad, nor will I ever know what it’s like to be one. However, I do happen to know what it feels like when a dad takes time to “Be a Dad” to his daughter. Let me share what I mean.

My dad was always there for me, through good times and bad. And through all the trouble I got in, again and again during my teenage years, he was still there, being a dad.

While he bailed me out of my fare share of “pickles” he always made it a point to remind me of his expectations with love. So, at times, amidst what may have seemed like letting me get away with something, a lesson was learned. A challenge was always given for me to "show myself trustworthy," and I would be trusted. If I kept demonstrating the same poor behavior, trust could not be built. And it was through trust, that he would be willing to give me more responsibility in the future.

I believe it was these key learning moments as I was growing up that impacted me most. I’m older and married now, and my dad is still there for me, being a dad, helping and encouraging me when needed.

I can’t help but wonder if he and I could have rebuilt trust – and more importantly, if rebuilding trust would have been as important to me – had he not handled those teachable moments the way he did.

Thus, I encourage all dads to Be a Dad even through life’s ups and downs. But most importantly, Be a Dad who makes the downs count.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Guest Post: A Reason to Smile

This is a guest post by Sean DeFrehn, the husband of NFI's Manager of Outreach, Brittany DeFrehn. Sean and Brittany just became first-time parents to a beautiful baby girl.

Did you know that infants can imitate expressions in their first few days of life? Not something that really mattered to me until a few weeks ago when I became a father. Since then it's almost all I can think about.

Smiling can effect so much in your life besides your mood; it can boost your immune system, reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and it even enhances others' perceptions of you and therefore your influence on them.

Being a father is my chance to give someone the best life I can, so I will fill her life with smiles.

Not just my smiles but those of our friends and more importantly her family. I can't control the members of our family, but I can control my interactions with them. To give the most to my daughter, I need to give the most to her family, especially her mother. Our relationship constantly and personally affects our daughter every day, and how I treat her mother will likely be what she looks for in a man.

So as I spend my day giving my all to my wife, our family, and our friends, and as the diaper changes at three a.m. make the days and nights long and difficult, I always keep this in mind: I won't let a moment go by without smiling because there is nothing better than my daughter smiling back.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Be a Dad

NFI has launched a brand new PSA (public service advertising) campaign called "Be a Dad." Take a look:

As I have watched this ad over and over again (loving it every time, of course), something occurred to me. I think many of us assume that to "be a dad" has always meant roughly the same thing. That the images in the Be a Dad spot are natural or obvious. But what if this commercial had been made 30 years ago? What four scenarios would have been depicted?

I know in my own experience, I do some things differently than my own dad did. The biggest "every day" example is that I don't recall my dad ever cooking dinner. I, however, cook dinner for my wife and son routinely. This does not make me better, just different. In fact, my dad is probably proud of the fact that he never cooked dinner :)

A few questions for you.

If Be a Dad was made 30 years ago, what four father-child scenarios would have been depicted?

What do you do differently than your own dad did to be a dad?

What do you think our sons will be doing differently 20 years from now to be a dad?

As you ponder these questions, share the Be a Dad commercial with your friends!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Saying Goodbye to My Last “Boy”

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven; A time to be born and a time to die. --Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

My beloved black lab Zeke died this past Saturday, and it was a very difficult experience for me. He was 15 years and 7 months old—105 in dog years— so I knew that it was just a matter of time. But, as my wife, Yvette, and I comforted him as he breathed his last and as my tears began to flow, I realized why Zeke’s death was impacting me so deeply. It wasn’t just him who was dying. An important part of me—a season of my life—was dying too.

You see, when I brought Zeke into our family many years ago, he was a present for my young sons—Jamin and Justin. He was to be “their” dog and taking care of him was going teach them a critical life lesson…how to be responsible for another. But, Zeke was not your ordinary dog. He was a special bundle of joy and a veritable love machine, and it wasn’t long before he was not just theirs but he was mine too—one of my boys.

Somehow, he had firmly and permanently “leashed” himself to my heart—just like his two-legged “brothers.” In fact, it’s pretty hard to think about being a young father with my sons without thinking about Zeke.

And, that’s why his death was so hard for me. My sons, now men, left their “season of boyhood” years ago. Alas, it was my job as their father to make sure that this was so. However, truth be told, while I was so pleased to watch them become the men they are now, I mourned the loss of the boys that they once were. But Zeke, a faithful and constant presence, was my solace.

Now he is gone and I will miss him. He was such a good boy.

So, we buried Zeke in rich black topsoil in our backyard, just outside our kitchen window. My wife, ever the green thumb, has already planted flowers and bulbs that are sure to bloom for many seasons to come. These blooms will be bitter as a daily reminder of loss, yet very sweet as a memorial to a life, and to lives, that I love.

In the weeks and the months to come, I will make my peace with this new “normal,” just as I did when my other boys left. Seasons change and life must always goes on. That is the way of time.