Daddys that Care Park Empowerment Day Celebrates Pontiac Families

Daddys that Care Park Empowerment Day Celebrates Pontiac Families

(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 31, 2018)

Pontiac, MI – “Love. Compassion. Forgiveness.  Those three words are of the highest frequency that one can operate in,” said Jerome Gibson as he spoke to the crowd of parents, grandparents and children at the second annual Daddys that Care Park Empowerment Day on Sunday.  “One of the things I want to focus on is how important it is to have fathers involved in our children’s lives and in our community.”

Gibson gave props to many of the men who are active in Pontiac who volunteer as role models for youth, calling them “light bearers.”

“Light bearers make sure people have resources. They make sure people have knowledge, and knowledge is life,” Gibson said.

The event featured speeches, dance performances, a cook out, games, bounce houses,  and even a game of tug-of-rope. Families gathered with the beautiful trees as a backdrop to have family portraits taken.

The man taking those photos was Solomon Bonner who lost his 14-year-old son Solomon Bonner to a shooting in spring 2016.  Another 14-year-old with a gun said the shooting was an accident, and the boy was sentenced as a juvenile, getting a four year sentence.

Bonner was surprised with a Father of the Year Award by David Stimage, founder of Daddys that Care.  The honor was for Bonner’s continued involvement in the lives of youth in the community.

“When I first met him we met at Chili’s,” Stimage said. “I’ll never forget it.  I know Chili’s was one of his son’s favorite restaurants. And in my head I’m like how can this dude be this strong to meet me at a place that his son that got taken from him used to go all the time? Throughout this whole year he showed tremendous dedication in allowing his son to live through his passion.”

When asked why he created the Parks Empowerment Day event, Stimage said “I wanted to have a day that we unite the community with one common goal being the best parents that we possibly be. With a focus on parent development and child engagement, and not allowing our situation to dictate our parenting the hope was to encourage, uplift and change the parents perspective on what is most important which is their children.”

Violence in the community was a topic that came up often as children ran though the park, tossed footballs, and danced in bubbles near one of the picnic tables. A local dance troupe from Deshara Fierce Dance Academy (DFDA) performed to the music of a Nas song, saying “I know I can, be what I want to be, if I work hard at it, I’ll be where I want to be.”

Deleah Sharp of Identify Your Dream spoke about the Stomp Out Violence March taking place the following day, stating there had been ten deaths due to gun violence so far this year including one suicide.  “I want to have more events like this and less like the march tomorrow,” she said.

Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman said that supporting parks like Hawthorne was one way to uplift the community, and urged those in attendance to get out and vote when millages come up for the parks.  “We need to come here every year.  We need to activate this space,” Waterman said.  “We have a lot of great parks, let’s get out and use them.”

Christine Valdez lost the father of her three children in a drive-by shooting in July 2016. She said the bullets were meant for someone else.  “I try to bring the kids out and enjoy things the best we can,” she said.  “Hopefully getting together like this, where it’s safe, hopefully that helps.”

The mission of Daddys That Care “is to improve the community, with a focus on fathers – through parent development, moral support, child engagement and understanding with unconditional love. With this in place we can rebuild our simple community INTO a thriving village!”  Learn more at http://daddysthatcare.org/

 

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