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Creating safe community for fathers and father figures

Annual Fatherhood EFFECT Summit celebrates impact and growth with dads in attendance

Water pours over a vase of ping-pong balls as a young dad shares the heartache of his earliest memory. When the water empties, he sees the word “hope” written on the bottom of his cup. The audience gasps. 
That simple four-letter word is a powerful prophecy over this young dad’s life — his past does not dictate his future and his upbringing does not determine the patterns or behaviors he instills in his children. 
One by one, dads young and old pour their cups of water into the vase of ping-pongs. As more water is added, the ping-pong balls rise and spill out of the vase. Chuck Olliff and Robbie Martin, counselors in Beaumont, Texas, draw a comparison using the ping-pong balls and vase to show how healing works. 
The balls represent past wounds and false identities people have, but as others pour into their lives through positive relationships, represented by the water, those wounds and identities begin to leave, bringing hope, love, courage and more. 

Impact for dads

Annual conference in Beaumont creates safe space for fathers and father figures

This illustration was part of the Fatherhood EFFECT Summit, an annual event hosted by Buckner International in Beaumont, Texas. The Fatherhood EFFECT team leads the summit alongside Buckner staff and volunteers from the community. 
This year’s summit was held in February and more than 80 people attended, mostly fathers or father figures. Men from the community such as judges, government workers, church leaders and more attend the summit to network and share their experiences.
Not only did the summit feature talks from two local counselors, but it also showcased talks by the members of the planning committee, some of whom were once participants in the Fatherhood EFFECT program. Uniquely, these speakers have been where the fathers in the audience once were, listening and absorbing information, looking for a way to better their families. Their presence was powerful for those ready to experience change.
“Men and dads don’t want to talk about stuff, but if you give them a platform, they will share,” shared Cynthia Edmondson, Buckner program manager for HOPES and Fatherhood EFFECT in Beaumont. “You could see some of the men were uncomfortable at first but by the end of the summit, they were sharing real, vulnerable experiences with complete strangers. It was quite intimate and special.” 

NFL player Otto Kelly offers powerful perspective to attendees

The day concluded with a powerful talk by keynote speaker Otto Kelly. Kelly, who lost his father to cancer at a young age, sought validation and significance through sports – even playing in the NFL. Afterward, he pursued a career in public service including being a pastor in Reno, Nevada. As a gang specialist and community outreach coordinator for juvenile services, he recognized the impact an absent father had on youth who were under his care. 

NFL Otto Kelly shares powerful insight 
In addition, Kelly served as the executive director for crisis pregnancy centers in the greater Reno area for 10 years. Kelly is an author and a speaker, and his Ted-talk titled "The Father Wound" quickly gained popularity. He now resides just down the street from Beaumont in Spring, Texas, making his presence at the summit even more impactful. 

Kelly told stories of racial reconciliation, fatherhood trauma, abuse and more that he had experienced in his line of work. He encouraged dads to use their tool of affirmation and begin practicing how to affirm not just their children but other children they may be in contact with — whether that be nephews, nieces, friends or grandchildren. At the end of his talk, Kelly welcomed questions from the audience.

One of the community leaders stood up and asked, “How do I stop this pattern of young men leaving their homes and families? What can I do to change that?”

Kelly’s advice was one everyone could agree on — meet them where they are. 

Forming safe relationships beyond the summit

If they love to work out, go to the gym. Start conversations with them while lifting weights and build trust. The effect of having a responsible male in the lives of other men is tremendous. Start by building a relationship with those around you and have conversations. 

It doesn’t always have to be in a formal setting, but as you meet people at the gym or at your kid’s school, begin practicing affirmation and support. Then, hopefully, with that affirmation and support, they will one day carry it out to someone around them, creating a ripple effect. 

“Next year we hope to have double the fathers in the room with everyone in attendance bringing a guest,” said Jada Kamp, fatherhood support coordinator for Fatherhood EFFECT. “Because Fatherhood EFFECT is a safe place where someone can show true feelings. You can’t bottle them up or else it will lead to an explosion. Instead, we offer a safe place where we can hold each other up.”

Learn more about Fatherhood EFFECT in Beaumont here.

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