It was a celebration of fatherhood.
About 110 local fathers registered for the seventh annual “All Dads Matter” event Saturday in Applegate Park. The four-hour event was a fun-filled program for fathers and their families; 28 community organizations had booths in the park to give information on parenting.
Cesar Vera, “All Dads Matter” program supervisor, said that about 500 people attended the event which featured free food, entertainment and prizes. Participants had access to information that will benefit fathers and their families.
One of the fun activities conducted Saturday was a diaper derby. Dads were recruited to put a diaper on a teddy bear, pack a diaper bag with necessary supplies and compete in heat races with strollers, with the teddy bears properly restrained.
Vera said the “All Dads Matter” program involves three men’s groups, in English and Spanish, which meet regularly. Open to fathers, father figures, uncles, grandfathers and stepfathers, the groups discuss a number of pertinent topics including finance, health and custody issues. Group members hold each other accountable for fostering proper parenting techniques.
The 10-week “Leadership for Life” program has a version for fathers which helps men advocate and navigate the system for their children.
The programs are designed to ensure every child has a loving, competent and caring father, Vera said. Merced County’s Human Services Agency conducts the programs, which also include community workshops in tandem with the Head Start program.
“We promote a positive, healthy relationship for fathers and their children,” Vera said. “In working with them (fathers) our goal is to help the dads be the best they can be.”
Lamar Henderson, program coordinator, said the HSA’s fatherhood program started eight years ago.
“It’s a really innovative approach to educating, encouraging and supporting fathers,” Henderson said. “This has a tremendous impact on the community and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.”
Ana Pagan, HSA director, said research shows children who have fathers and positive role models in their lives do much better. Many people in prison come from single-family households and didn’t have the influence of a father growing up.