Him & Me is an initiative founded to help foster and nurture the father-daughter connection

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To reinforce and celebrate that critical connection, LaToyia Jones launched the Him & Me Father-Daughter Dance in 2013 as an event for fathers and daughters to share a fabulous evening full of music, games, laughter and memories. This year’s event took place on Sunday, August 6, at Windows on the River in Cleveland.

By Mary Malik

The importance of a strong father figure in the life of a young girl cannot be overstated. Him & Me is an initiative founded by LaToyia Jones to address the critical role of fathers in the lives of young girls, in order for them to become strong women and the men to have the privilege of becoming proud dads.

LaToyia initially launched an organization, Live on Purpose, to address suicide in African American girls.

“The father-daughter connection is critical for girls to feel safe, secure and loved,” LaToyia says. “And fathers need to understand the importance of their role.”

To reinforce and celebrate that critical connection, LaToyia launched the Him & Me Father-Daughter Dance in 2013 as an event for fathers and daughters to share a fabulous evening full of music, games, laughter and memories. This year’s event took place earlier this month, at Windows on the River in Cleveland.

As a proud father of two girls, a son and a beloved girls basketball coach to many more, Omar Anderson knows the importance of being a strong male role model, and showing his daughters and his team what they should expect, and what they deserve, from the men in their lives.

“I have always been a presence in my children’s lives, so when I first heard about the Him & Me dance, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Omar says.

As an AAU basketball coach, Omar had the idea of extending the dance invitation to the team. The first year, Omar included a few team members and their fathers, but wanted the dance to be something every girl on the team could experience—even if their dads were not involved.

Omar Anderson, an AAU basketball coach, brought his team to the Him & Me event. The girls raised funds to help make the event happen.

“I talked to LaToyia about bringing all the girls and she was on board,” Omar says. “I didn’t want the girls to feel awkward if their father wasn’t there, so LaToyia went to work for us, found some sponsors and got two limos to take us all together. The following year we had 20 girls, and we got a party bus for the group.”

Omar says that year, his players raised funds for tickets, transportation and special things like hair and makeup, nails, dresses and accessories for the big night. Omar even brought his son to experience the impact of Him & Me Father Daughter Dance. It’s fun for everyone, but there’s so much more that Omar hopes his girls, and his son, gain from the event.

“This night sets the bar very high and that’s the way it should be,” Omar says. “We are setting expectations for our daughters for how they should be treated. My son needs to see that, too. Many girls are willing to accept anything because they don’t know any better. Those expectations, low or high, start with the father.”

The dance is an event full of music, dancing, laughter and every kid-related activity you can imagine. But the underlying theme, of course, is to help develop and nurture that father-daughter connection. Him & Me accomplishes this not only through the Father-Daughter Dance, but also through media campaigns, workshops and other activities throughout the year that support and strengthen this connection.

“Fatherhood and coaching are blessings in my life,” Omar says. “My goal is to give all the girls great memories and exposure to this beautiful night. This is something they might not otherwise experience. We want to show the girls what the role of a father or father figure should be, even if things didn’t work out between dad and mom.”

Omar says a father, and even grandfather’s, responsibility is so much more than providing financial support. He shared the story of one of his players who is now serving in the U.S. Army and has wonderful memories of the dance.

“Her granddad would come every Sunday and take him and his brother to church and also back-to-school shopping every year,” Omar says. “Even if it’s not convenient, fathers have to show up through their actions.”

Co-parenting himself, Omar calls his kids every day to keep in touch.

“I ask how they are and what they need from me,” Omar says. “Kids didn’t ask to be here. As their fathers, it’s our job to show them they are here and valued.”

For details about Him & Me, check the website HimAndMeDance.com and find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment