Friday, February 18, 2011

Special Edition: Upbeat Dad Community Forum Recap!

Rodrick Walters welcoming guests to the event

On Fridays we generally do our Upbeat Dad of the Week feature. This week we’re doing a special post on our Inaugural Upbeat Dad Community forum which was held last week Thursday in Cooper City, Florida – just outside of Miami. Our weekly feature to highlight great dads will return next Friday.
I have written a couple of posts about our fourm since it was held – sharing a brief synopsis of the success that it was. Today, I’ll do a much more detailed analysis about it. I’m doing this post later than I would’ve liked because unlike the typical post that I do, this one entails gathering information from different sources – i.e. testimonials, evaluation forms, etc. Plus I wanted to make sure that in my busy 24/7 life, I did a post that did the event justice. For those who have anticipated this analysis, I hope that it was well worth the wait.
In the post, Announcing the Upbeat Dad Community Forum, I shared my vision of taking our vision to the next level. The analogy I used in that post was that the blog is like the air campaign in military combat. We’re currently over 13,000 hits and going strong with the blog. Readers from every continent are reading our messages each day. The forum and such events are more like the ground campaign. In this phase, we meet people face to face and seek to have meaningful, productive dialogue.
Rodrick and 2 of the evening's pannelists
I remember when the blog launched in October of last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as public response. Initially, I had a few hits out of courtesy from people who I know personally. Other hits were out of curiosity. The first day we had a couple dozen hits. But what’s occurred since then has been nothing short of amazing. The blog has had a meteoric rise.
Today, in a typical day, we have over 200 hits. That’s way different from the approximately 20 hits we had at the outset. At this point, I’d say that over 95% of our readers I have never met – and though I’d like to personally meet each person who ever reads our blog, it’s quite likely that most of them I will never meet. Yet, we have the connection through this blog each day.
With our forum, I think that what happened was similar to what occurred with the blog. Many came out of courtesy; others, out of curiosity. But the fact is that they came. We had a very nice turnout – especially considering this was our first event. I was very pleased with the response by the general public.
One of my basic beliefs is that if you have a quality product, sooner or later, it will be noticed. It may be later, rather than sooner, but it will be noticed. With the buzz that’s been created with the forum and feedback I’ve received, I think that we’re going to witness another meteoric rise, as more and more people will come out to our events, as we seek to touch lives in a positive way.

Presentation by Sean Colin

Our MC for the evening was Vanina Arenovich Hochman, a licensed family therapist. She welcomed the attendees and introduced the organization in a formal way. She then introduced me. I, too, welcomed the attendees. I also told our guests about the brief history that got us to the point of having the event. Specifically, I shared my personal story – the one I wrote about in The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad. Then I talked about where we have come from as an organization since October.
Then came the highlight of the evening – the panelists and the forum. We assembled an impressive array of persons to address the question Where Are Our Fathers?  Here are the bios of our panelists:
Rodrick with Elizabeth Daugherty
Sean Collin is a partner in the firm Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A.  He has practiced family law since 2004. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and received his Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Elizabeth G. Daugherty has been a family law litigation attorney in Broward County since 1994. For the past few years, she has worked primarily as a family and circuit civil mediator. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Georgia and received her Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Brentton Jones is a Senior Manager of the Guest Experience Department of the Miami Dolphins football organization. In that capacity, he is dedicated and committed to growing, enhancing, and consistently building the depth and width of the relationship between the Miami Dolphins, its’ Season Ticket and Club Members.
Anthea Pennant of Feeding South Florida
Anthea Pennant is the Director of Development for Feeding South Florida. She has the task of managing fundraising and community relations for Broward, Miami Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties. She holds a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice (suma cum laude) from Florida International  University. She is a former parole officer.
Each panelist gave an overview of their background and the work that they do presently. The good thing is that each of them has a unique perspective on fatherhood but they all agree on one thing - kids need a present, active father in their lives.
Sean Collin spoke of the journey that led him to become a family attorney. A married father himself, he shared his experience as an attorney about how many fathers become introduced to the family law system in the least favorable circumstances. Some, as a result of relationships gone bad; others, as a result of domestic violence injunctions.  He sees his role as part attorney, part counselor, because both men and women, as they deal with family law issues, are typically in an emotionally fragile state.
 Elizabeth Daughterty shared of the challenges that some men have faced in the legal system – to the extent that they give up and walk away from their kids. She and I have a particularly good relationship. She represented me several years ago as I had some post divorce legal issues that needed to be addressed. It was quite interesting seeing her in this capacity, considering I was a father who reached out to her in a time of need. She shared the fact that the laws in Florida have changed significantly in the past couple years - changes are more favorable for fathers. It was based on her presentation that I wrote Post Divorce Parenting: Visitation vs. Time-Sharing.
Brentton Jones of the Miami Dolphins
Brentton Jones told of the journey that led him to become a Senior Manager with the Miami Dolphins football organization. He gave credit for his success to his parents and the positive, supportive environment that they created in the home. His parents reside in New Jersey but his mother was visiting Florida so she and his sister (who lives in Florida) were also present. He shared how his father instilled in him the mindset that he is always interviewing so he should always be his best in everything that he does. He also shared how, as the head of the Guest Experience department, he gets to see the emotional connection that dads have with their kids when they go to games or other Miami Dolphins activities. Both the young and old speak of the special time that they have with their fathers at those events.
Anthea Pennant spoke of her background in criminal justice. A former parole officer, she shared that in the vast majority of cases that she dealt with, there was a common thread – the absence of a father. A divorced/single mother herself, she spoke of the challenges of having an uninvolved former spouse in the lives of her children. In her present work, as manager of fundraising and community relations for Feeding South Florida, she sees that the individuals that her charity serves are typically single mothers who do not have the support of the father of their children.
Guest expressing his view on the subject at hand
The discussion was quite interactive. Attendees shared their unique perspectives on the subject Where Are Our Fathers. The panelists and attendees were engaged in what I believe was productive dialogue. I think that the most touching moment of the forum was when a gentleman – likely in his late 40s or early 50s – shared how he never heard his father say to him, “I love you.” He went his entire life without hearing those words. When his father was dying, as he went to see him in the hospital, finally, he heard the words that he waited a lifetime to hear, “Son, never forget that I love you.” Then he passed away. That testimony brought tears to a few eyes, including mine.
The event was extraordinary. We will be posting video clips soon so that you can witness for yourself just what a time it was that evening. The only thing that I believe we will do differently for the next event is allot even more time for the interaction between the attendees and panelists because when people’s voices are heard and their issues are addressed, it makes the event more meaningful and personal for each individual.
The Upbeat Dad support crew
We will certainly do it again – and again and again! That was a consistent theme on the evaluation forms – people love the message and the vision of what we’re doing so they want us to have more forums. That’s what I like to hear! We’ve struck a chord and the message is catching on – both online and in person.
I call the Upbeat Dad a revolution – a global movement that seeks to impact families in a positive way as we try to get men and women to recognize the very real need that kids have for actively involved fathers.
Our next event will be in the spring, here in South Florida. Stay tuned for that. Also, I promised that we will take the show on the road – and that we certainly will do. I have been developing contacts around the world – throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, Asia and Africa. And the need for what we’re doing is very real. As I said in my interview with BBC radio 2 weeks ago, “I don’t want to keep the message here in the US; it is for the world.”
Thanks for being engaged with us. We’re on a pace to surpass 15,000 hits on the blog and 900 followers on Twitter by the end of February. And as I always say, the numbers are not numbers to me – they represent lives that we can touch in a meaningful and profound way.
Continue to share this positive message with others. I strongly believe that together, we can impact the world for generations to come.
Rodrick Walters with Brentton Jones after the event

Enjoy your day today and every day.

The Upbeat Dad


  1. What a fabulous message that is inspiring Dads around the world ! Keep up your great work

    Sue Atkins

    Author of "Raising Happy Children for Dummies"

  2. It is so refreshing to see a blog like this!
    Bravo Rodrick

    I look forward to visiting often.