(WSVN) - The teenagers don’t have a father in their life. Many have never even known one, and a South Florida organization works to help them out. That includes a father-daughter dance where police and fire rescue personnel escort the girls, but now it’s all in jeopardy, so they turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to see what could be done.

Two things are certain for Anissa. She will work hard to do well in school, and her father will never be there to help her.

Anissa Carby: “If I saw him right now, I wouldn’t even recognize him.”

So sad, but then Gernald Hawkins created an organization called Fathers MIA to help high school students like Anissa, who have never known their father.

Gernald Hawkins, founder, Fathers MIA: “They have abandonment issues. They have trust issues because of the fact that their fathers are not in their lives.”

Gernald and his volunteers work with the young men and women, counseling them.

They put on fun events, like a golf tournament for the guys, and the father-daughter dance for the girls, where first responders volunteer to escort them.

Teenage girl in Fathers MIA video: “By being given the opportunity to dance with a police officer, it kinda gives me that chance to see what having a father would be like for a night, even if it’s just for a few hours.”

It’s not just a dance for the girls and the first responders who volunteer to escort them. Through the Fathers MIA website, the event raises money, which is turned into scholarships for many of the girls who will be at the event.

But the man Gernald paid to redesign this year’s website didn’t do it.

Gernald Hawkins: “We contacted him on several occasions. No phone call in return.”

The father-daughter dance is in April. Without the website, the dance won’t happen, and the girls who are invited won’t get money for college.

Patrick Fraser: “How much have you raised so far? Close to zero?”

Gernald Hawkins: “Close to zero.”

Well, Howard, I assume the web designer has to return the $750 he was paid, but is he responsible for the money the website would have raised for the girls?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “In addition to having to return his fee, the web designer would have to pay any additional money Gernald spent to hire someone to quickly create the website in time for the dance. However, it’s impossible to prove what the website would have raised, and legally, you could not win that case in court.”

We contacted the person who was hired to create the website. He told us he would have it ready the next day.

The next day, he wouldn’t talk to us, proving again he couldn’t be trusted.

We then asked Jiscard Pierre-Louis, a talented graphic design artist who works at Channel 7, to help design the website for Fathers MIA.

Jiscard Pierre-Louis: “You know, you just want to actually give back and do your part, so when you’re called to do something, you step up.”

Jiscard did it for free. His work was priceless for Gernald.

Gernald Hawkins: “I am so grateful that there are people out there that care. We were in dire straits.”

The website looks great. Anissa and the 29 other high school girls will get their first father-daughter dance after Jiscard’s work.

Jiscard Pierre-Louis: “I think it just feels good just to do it for somebody.”

And if Jiscard is excited, imagine how the girls, the first responders and the founder of the father-daughter dance feel.

Gernald Hawkins: “I mean, it was like a dream come true. It was a miracle. Thank you, Channel 7. We really appreciate you guys.”

Thank you, Gernald, and thank you, Jiscard, for getting that website done.

Now, Fathers MIA needs to raise the money to give scholarships to the college-bound women. If you would like to make a donation, we have links to the new website and a GoFundMe page for the young ladies at the end of this Help Me Howard story. Thank you for anything you can donate.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.


Father-Daughter Dance GoFundMe page

Father-Daughter Dance website for information, tickets, volunteers and donations

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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