by Gerri Marroquin

Father’s Day: a time to celebrate dads’ abilities to make a joke out of any situation, pull off a tacky yet fashionable outfit, and say the right things at the right time. It’s a time of gratitude and love. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t experience this.

Anthony ParnellAccording to the United States Census Bureau in 2010, 24 million children live in a father-absent home in the U.S. This is what Anthony Parnell’s Fatherhood Support Network is eager to change.

Anthony ’91 co-founded the Fatherhood Support Network, which focuses on bridging fathers and fatherhood support sites in local communities, where support groups and mentorships can be provided. With eight sites currently open, the network’s goal is to open 100 sites.

The network’s mission is to support fathers who are alienated from their child’s life because of the court system or unresolved family conflicts. An aspect of the network is reconditioning the fathers’ thought process that just because they have these challenges it is not an excuse to give up on their child.

“We are trying to send out positive messages because right now in America the focus of money, time, and attention is on converting fathers who are not motivated to get them motivated,” Anthony said.

Fatherhood Support Network also brings awareness through fundraisers. Bowling for Dads, a fundraiser held on Father’s Day in Atlanta and nine other cities, encourages families to honor and celebrate fathers who are present in their child’s life.

“With us creating these more positive images, for one, it becomes something people can immediately visualize that is not very expensive and people can automatically picture having fun,” Anthony said of Bowling for Dads. “Secondly, by being national, we know that each year doing this, it automatically will grow.”

Anthony is a big advocate of men supporting one another and says the network is borrowing from the amazing support systems women create for men to imitate.

“There are a lot of emotional roller coasters so we are trying to reeducate men themselves,” he explained. “Men have to support other men and see that as the greatest support system that needs to be there.”

And not only is this preached, it is practiced. Anthony’s close friend, James, was the starting point of the network. James overcame the kidnapping of his children by his wife and won a grueling custody battle with the outstanding support of Anthony.

Anthony also has his own story. At the age of nine, his father moved away from the family and later on disappeared and was unheard of for four years.

“I know from first hand experience the damaging effects of not having your dad around,” Anthony said. “I got lucky, and someone from my church became a mentor and consciously said that they were going to be there to fill that gap.”

He understands how unfocused a child can become in school and how easy it is to get involved with the wrong group. Through his experience, he has learned the many characteristics fathers should posses, and even though he is not a father, he believes that the most important quality in a father is the ability of putting the child’s needs and feelings first.

Anthony beat the negative effects of having an absent father and found the success many do not. He has experience as a therapist, social worker, director of community-based programs, and with executive management. He’s also a published author, and his book, “24 Million: Challenges and Solutions for Alienated Fathers in America,” supports the Fatherhood Support Network.

Anthony graduated in 1991 with a B.A. in sociology from then West Georgia College, later receiving an M.S. from Clark Atlanta University’s Graduate School of Social Work. During his time at West Georgia, Anthony was president of Black Student Alliance, wrote for the newspaper, and enjoyed giving back.

“When they say that a lot of times the experiences and activities that a college student is involved in is a test or a sample of what they are going to do outside of college was very true for me at West Georgia,” he said.

One thing he enjoyed and praises about West Georgia is the ability to create relationships with professors. The professors and relationships he describes during his time at West Georgia are very similar to the ones now.

“For me, having those types of experiences with many faculty members, it shaped me to be a person that no matter how busy I am, my life should not be about me,” Anthony said. “It should be about making anything you touch better and that has to do with just so many people giving back to me as a student.”

And now it’s time for Anthony to give back through Bowling for Dads. This event will be held on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19 at the Funtime Bowl in Atlanta and is open to families. For more information on this event and more, visit www.fatherhoodsupportnetwork.org.

Posted on June 14, 2016