Happy Father’s Day from Children First!

June 14, 2023

A boy with a blue pail on his head, posing for the camera
Children with their arms reaching out to feel the rain pouring down

“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us on a journey, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”

–       Anonymous

Once a year, we stop to honor and remember the most important man in our lives – our dad. Photographer Anne Geddes perhaps said it best when she said that “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”

A dad’s work – like his love for his child – is endless. Comforter, protector, teacher, breadwinner, in today’s busy, complicated world, a dad is all of this and more. Through its Nurturing Dads Class, a part of the Families First Institute, new dads, expectant dads, married and single dads learn how to be the best dad they can possibly be. Children First’s Families First Institute courses offer support and resources to all moms, dads, and caregivers, thus strengthening the entire family.

Kenny Hughes is one of our Children First fathers. He is a native Floridian who lives with his wife, Lisa, in Port Charlotte, and for 10 years has been working at Frito-Lay & PepsiCo, as a route sales representative. Kenny has joint custody of his 6-year-old son, Matthew, from a previous relationship.

“It was Matthew’s mom who introduced me to Children First,” Kenny said. “Matthew had been enrolled in its Early Head Start program in Venice since he was only 1 year old, and he was there until he was 3 when we moved him to their North Port location,” Kenny explained.

“When Matthew was at Children First, he had an individualized education plan (IEP), because he needed speech therapy,” Kenny said. “Children First helped with diagnosing that, and they offered speech therapy at the school. When he left, he no longer needed any therapy. He is a thriving first-grader now, and doing quite well,” Kenny said.

At Children First, Kenny said, the staff genuinely cares about these kids. “When Matthew was there, I always knew that they loved my kid, and would take care of him and protect him.”

It was at the urging of their Family Advocate, Yesenia, that Kenny became involved with Children First on its Policy Council. The Council is a group of parents, two per site, who help curate the policies for the program. According to Kenny, this included helping set mandates regarding the pandemic, and today “we help make sure that things at the school are running at the highest level.” He also served as Board Liaison.

Today, Kenny serves on the Board of Directors. “Even though Matthew is no longer a student, I felt I would be able to help other children by staying involved,” he said.

Kenny was invited to be the keynote speaker at Children First’s 2023 Fairytale Ball: Through the Looking Glass

“Being a dad means a lot to me, and I wanted Matthew to be in a different place than I was when I was a kid. I just want him to grow up and be happy. I wanted a completely different world for him. That’s why I stay involved with Children First, so maybe I can help someone else who is going through what I went through as a child.

“Father’s Day is a day that I know I will have Matthew with me, and that’s what makes it special,” Kenny said.

Happy Father’s Day from our family to yours! We hope that all of the dads out there enjoy their special day.