Jim McKenzie, a former child and family attorney from the United Kingdom, is passionate about helping stay-at-home, single and new dads play an integral role in their child's development and education.
McKenzie, along with former National Football League star Hank Baskett, will host the first Everything for Dads Convention starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Gulf Coast Convention Center in Sarasota.
"It is a subject very close to my heart," McKenzie said. "When I moved to this country, I was surprised about how little attention was paid by authorities to the plight of children."
McKenzie, married with five children, moved to the Sarasota area in the early 2000s and started a business coaching families on teamwork and cohesiveness while raising children. "I found on the health and wellness path that it was always the mom and the children," McKenzie said. "I rarely met their fathers. I thought 'Something is missing.' Problems caused by father absences are huge."
Shortly after starting his family coaching business, McKenzie also started a community magazine called "Every Little Thing: Birth and Beyond," focusing more on the role of dads and making the magazine less "mommy-centric," as he calls it.
This is the first McKenzie-run conference aimed at helping dads stay involved.
"I wanted to bring this to a bigger platform, but I had little money and no backers," McKenzie said. "But I had willpower and determination to bring a foundation together and put money into the community for a grassroots program for parent support and parent involvement in education."
Dads and blended families
McKenzie said the conference recognizes the role of dads in every unique family situation.
"There are a lot of blended families, and most children don't live with their biological parents. It is a different world we live in. But whatever makeup of the family, both parents need support."
The convention, open to all parents, will feature sessions on relationship counseling, personal growth and basic parenting skills.
Bryan Nelson, a group leader at the nonprofit organization Boot Camp for New Dads in Orlando, will also speak.
Boot Camp for New Dads is a program with 250 locations nationwide. The Orlando branch started three years ago with a grant from the United Way. This year, Nelson said he expects 1,200 dads to go through the program.
"It is a free class for men only. We talk to dads about how to take care of mom before and after delivery, changing diapers, calming babies, how to handle stress and how to develop a team mind set to parenting," Nelson said. "We promote the fact that dads are not just moms' helpers or backup, but have a significant, separate role to play in bringing up a child."
At the conference, Nelson said he plans to cover how to engage expecting and new dads, address their concerns and talk about "the need to educate moms about the importance of the dad."
McKenzie said he expects up to 150 guests Saturday. The convention will include a VIP breakfast, breakout sessions and a performance by Nate Jacobs, founder and artistic director of the West Coast Black Theater Troupe, and a dads award ceremony.
The convention will be filmed for a documentary McKenzie is working on about modern fatherhood, which he plans to complete this summer.
Single tickets are $119, and group tickets for two or more are $99 apiece. There are a limited number of free tickets available. For more information, contact Jim McKenzie at 941-926-5218.
Some of the proceeds will benefit The Every Thing For Dads 501(c) Foundation.