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Support for fathers-to-be – and those who already are

A number of expectant fathers watch as one holds an infant during “Boot Camp for New Dads,” a program held regionally by First Things First of Greater Richmond.


By the time his wife, Allison, was a few months from delivering their first child more than five years ago, Eric Gregory knew all about the birthing process and how to install a car seat.

But he didn’t know what to expect as a new dad.

That changed when he completed “Boot Camp for New Dads,” a three-hour program hosted by First Things First of Greater Richmond in which “veteran” dads share advice and information with dads-to-be in a casual group format.

“All the maternity classes we had taken were focused on Mom,” Gregory recalled. “This was the first class I had heard about that was for dads. It was amazing.”

The program, created by a California man and then replicated nationwide, teaches dads-to-be everything from what to pack in a diaper bag and how to hold a newborn to how to identify the signs of post-partum depression in the baby’s mother.

Each session includes a facilitator and veteran dads, who bring their infants with them and share tips and experiences with the dads-to-be. Though the expectant fathers come from all different backgrounds – from unwed teens to married CEOs – they quickly find common ground, said Gregory, who has remained involved with the program as a veteran dad and facilitator.

“This happens every time I facilitate a class,” he said. “You walk in, it’s nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, there are all these guys, all strangers to each other, everybody kind of hunched over. And then when it starts, the dynamic changes almost immediately. In no time at all, the guys are relaxed, joking with each other, sharing things with each other.”

First Things First Board member and Boot Camp facilitator Jeff Ukrop agreed.

“It’s usually the most diverse group of men you could expect to put in a room – across culture and socio-economic range – but the thing they can all relate to is not having a clue about how to handle this baby,” he said.

“Boot Camp” is one of many programs offered by First Things First of Greater Richmond, a not-for-profit organization that works to educate and strengthen families. Boot Camp’s specific value quickly became apparent shortly after its inception locally in 2007, said Bob Ruthazer, the founder and program director of FTF.

“What we noticed was that there were lots of things for moms, but there was very little in our community for dads,” Ruthazer said. “We’ve seen over time the sort of tremendous negative impacts that occur when dads are missing from kids’ lives or emotionally absent. We wanted to encourage dads to be more involved and equip them.”

Sessions cost $25 and are held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon several times a month at eight local hospitals, which provide the meeting space for free and also make financial contributions to the program. Boot Camp has grown primarily through word of mouth and has served more than 1,700 men since its inception, Ruthazer said.

“We had a letter from a mom [recently] saying ‘I don’t know what you did to my husband, but thank you very much!” he said.

As Gregory attests, one three-hour session can make a significant difference for an expectant father who may have many unanswered questions.

“Sometimes these young guys are holding babies for the first time at Boot Camp,” he said. “They come out of the session excited to be new dads – and they’ll be in that relationship [with their children] for their whole lives.

“It had a profound impact on me, and it continues to.”

For fathers with preschoolers and elementary school-aged children, FTF offers All Pro Dad, a national program created in part by former NFL coach Tony Dungy that is designed as a way to foster communication between dads and their children. Dads and their kids meet 10 times a year in a group setting to discuss various values, watching videos that help explain them and then having one-on-one and group conversations about them. Meetings are free, but registration is required.

During a recent gathering at the Martin’s at Crossridge, the group discussed “kindness” and the benefits of paying it forward. As a take-home exercise, each father-child pair was encouraged to put the lesson to work by paying for the person behind them the next time they passed through a tollbooth or purchased a cup of coffee, for example.

Ukrop’s son still recalls a lesson learned at an All Pro Dad meeting last October, during which the value was “humility” and attendees watched a video of NFL players celebrating touchdowns.

“At the end of it we talked about how the other team feels,” Ukrop recalled. “To this day, when he sees a touchdown, my son will go, ‘Is he being humble?’ I turn it back on him and say, ‘What do you think?’ So we’re able to have that dialogue. . . and to engage in a meaningful conversation.”

For details about future “Boot Camp for New Dads” or “All Pro Dad” classes, visit http://www.firstthingsrichmond.org or call (804) 288-3431.


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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The Henrico Teen Theatre Company will present “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. July 30 to Aug. 2 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen… Full text

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