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Children without fathers in their lives get heartfelt encouragement in Oklahoma City

The recent “A Heart for the Fatherless” conference addressing the issue of fatherless boys drew 375 people to Fairview Baptist Church in northeast Oklahoma City.
BY CARLA HINTON chinton@opubco.com Published: August 24, 2013
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Heart taker.

Two simple words struck at the very core of “A Heart for the Fatherless,” a recent church gathering in Oklahoma City.

About 275 youths at the conference were asked to share what came to mind when they thought of the word “father.”

Hero, provider, leader — the young people didn't hesitate to speak.

But when keynote speaker Steve Perry, Ph.D., asked the boys what words cropped up when they thought about their own fathers, the positive descriptions stopped.

Liar. Selfish. Punk. Ghost. Mad. Missing.

Several of about 100 adults at the event seemed to flinch as the youths ranging in age from 4 to late teens opened up to them.

Heart taker. That's how a 12-year-old boy summed up what came to his mind when he thought about his father: someone who has taken a heart.

Perry paused to let the boy's words sink in with the audience Aug. 10 at Fairview Baptist Church, 1700 NE 7.

The moment highlighted what the conference was all about, organizers said.

The day included workshops on a variety of topics, a panel discussion and lunch, but Perry's afternoon keynote address and the youths' response honed in on the tough situation faced by boys whose fathers are not helping to raise them.

Taking responsibility

Leander Williams, founder of the mentoring organization Project Boys2Men, said he organized the event with the help of New Union Baptist. Williams said he grew up in a fatherless home and wanted to help youths avoid many of the troubles he experienced.

Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., told conference attendees he, too, was raised without his father. Perry, author of several books, including “Man Up! Nobody Is Coming to Save Us,” was featured in the documentary “From Fatherless to Fatherhood” and the cable TV show “Save My Son” and recently appeared on a series of “Oprah's Lifeclass” episodes on the OWN cable network about the issue of fatherlessness.

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Editor's note: This is the start of an ongoing series about efforts made by metro-area faith-based organizations and individuals to address the issue of children without fathers present in their homes.

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