MOUNT LAUREL – Bryant Brittingham was surprised to be awarded one of the Most Valuable Dad awards at Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey‘s first-ever Father Appreciation Event
“I’m not really one for awards. Everything I do, I do because I’m supposed to,” said the 41-year-old father of three from Camden.
The event, held earlier this month at the International Sports and Skating Center in Mount Laurel, celebrated fathers, offering inspiration and hope and providing them with information and resources to support their families.
“We want fathers to be actively engaged in their children’s lives,” said executive director of PCA-NJ Rush Russell. “This is an opportunity to get dads more involved.”
The night featured friendly games of flag football, pizza, free haircuts and racks of business attire, a job fair and resource offerings.
Jerome Allen, an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, and professional motivational speaker Steve Perry offered words of wisdom and advice to the dads.
“The greatest way to show children you love them is to be vulnerable to them,” Perry said.
Faheem Lea, 47, of Camden and a father of four came specifically to hear Perry talk about fatherhood.
“Being a committed father, I’m trying to get some tips on how to do better and spread these tips to my community,” he said.
Kelly Gales, 41, of Cape May County appreciated the educational aspects of the event.
“I learned a lot here,” he said. “I got some valuable information that can save me later on in life.”
Men lined up for complimentary haircuts for themselves and their children while others checked out the job and resource fair.
Dads were encouraged to apply with potential employers including Amazon and B&H Photo, and visit different resource tables such as one set up by the New Jersey Office of Child Support Services.
Hoping to make a good impression at job interviews, some dads picked up free business attire including a suit, shirt and tie.
Photogelic Studios offered professional photos of fathers as well as pictures with their kids.
“All aspects of this event are conducive to growth and development,” Brittingham said.
The event was funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
Charmaine Thomas, the assistant commissioner of the NJ Division of Family and Community Partnerships with NJ DCF said the agency recognizes the need for more programs for fathers.
“For a very long time the work has been around moms, but fathers have the same amount of needs and need the same kind of support,” said Shondelle Wills-Bryce, the administrator for the Office of School Linked services at the NJ DCF.
“They’re just as important as moms; dads do matter,” she said.