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Daddy Camp

Event teaches men to be good fathers.

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Nearly 40 percent of Memphis children lived without a father from 2005 to 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Those grim numbers inspired the city to team up with a few nonprofit organizations for the first annual "Training Camp for Dads," a one-day event encouraging fathers to be more active in their children's lives.

The camp will be held on August 20th at the University of Memphis' Fogelman Executive Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"If a single mom is trying to rear a family alone, economically she's suffering. Even if the father's paying child support, she's only getting a portion of what he makes," said Oliver Williams, supervisor for the fatherhood program at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, a sponsor of the event.

The free, open-to-the-public training camp will offer seven seminars, each with a football theme. One session, "Locker Room Chat," will allow men to vent about their troubles.

"We want to provide that locker-room-type atmosphere, where they can go in and share. They come out knowing their information is safe but also that they have resources to help them with issues," said Carol Jackson, director of programs for Families Matter, another sponsor of the camp.

Other sessions will focus on workforce development, financial planning, parenting skills, expectant fathers, child support, and reengagement back into a child's life.

Since the city is cosponsoring the camp, Mayor A C Wharton will be present. He and wife Ruby have raised six boys. Nika Jackson, a manager with the city's Public Services and Neighborhoods division, said Wharton will empower fathers to act as role models in the lives of their children.

"He saw that responsible fatherhood was a huge need in our city, and he didn't want to just talk about it but actually step up and show [that he has] actually lived it," Nika Jackson said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2005-to-2009 American Community Survey, there were 149,819 children living with a single biological parent in Memphis. Of these children, 12,934 lived with only a father, and 74,035 lived with only a mother. Nika Jackson said that children without fathers are more likely to fall into a life of crime.

"We see the negative impacts [of a child not having a father]. It goes from academic success to crime," she said.

Although the camp's primary focus is on men, women won't be left out. There will be a panel discussion for women featuring a child counselor, a single mom, and a father to provide a male's perspective.

"We really want women to come away not having a finger-pointing session but an understanding that 'This is the situation. What can I do as a mom to make this situation the best for my child?'" Nika Jackson said.

Carol Jackson said she hopes men who attend the camp understand they are not alone: "Others out there have been through it and are going through it and can offer help and support. We hope they take away resources that can help them not only to be great men but to be great fathers to their children."

Other camp sponsors include Shelby County Head Start, Memphis City Schools, and the Shelby County Division of Corrections.

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