PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - The spotlight fell on several South Florida teens at a heartfelt father-daughter dance held in their honor, thanks to a local organization and law enforcement agencies.
The theme of Saturday’s Fathers MIA gala in Pembroke Pines was “As We Honor Her.”
This year’s event gave a chance for high school girls to attend a dance, even though their real fathers aren’t in their lives.
“It gives me an opportunity to have a father figure in my life, the one I never had,” said attendee Leann Anderson.
“It brings joy to my life that I would have someone, a counter to a father, to be here with me, to have this great night tonight,” said another teen.
First responders stepped in to fill the gap, thanks to Fathers MIA.
“These officers will take the place of these young ladies’ fathers for one night so that these young ladies can do a simulated father-daughter dance,” said Gernald Hawkins, the founder of Fathers MIA.
But the music and merriment at the Charles F. Dodge City Center almost didn’t happen.
Back in March, 7’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser told the story of a web designer who took a $700 payment but failed to put together a website that would help the organization raise money for the dance, as well as scholarships for the teenagers.
Fathers MIA offers activities and counseling for young men and women.
Graphic designer Jiscard Pierre-Louis, who works at Channel 7, stepped in to create the website for free and helped get the event back on track.
The support for his mission is music to Hawkins’ ears. He said he wants the meaning of Fathers MIA to shift from “Missing in Action” to “Motivated, Involved and Active.”
“We want to bridge the gap between the fathers and these young kids,” he said. “We want to make sure that we create an atmosphere where these young ladies and young gentlemen can thrive.”
“If you feel loved, it feels amazing being here tonight,” said attendee Xspinziv Emmanuel. “I really appreciate everything that they have done for us.”
The total amount raised for scholarships during the gala was $33,000. The original budget of $19,000 was bumped up with a $14,000 donation from the audience.
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