LONG BEACH—The Long Beach Male Community Reentry Program (MCRP) recently hosted a family reunification dance for fathers and their children. The March 25 dance saw 15 children, ranging from 5 to 17, enjoying a special evening with their dads.
Fathers greeted their child with a rose boutonniere or hand corsage, then escorted them down the red carpet to their assigned seat.
The formal reception featured a three-course dinner, DJ entertainment and a special father/child dance.
Each father read a heartfelt personalized letter to their child, then presented them with a keepsake heart-shaped pendant for the girls or dog tag for the boys.
The message on the pendant read, “To my daughter, I can’t promise to be here for the rest of your life. But, I can promise to love and support you the rest of mine. Love, Dad.”
The dog tag messages read, “To my son, I might not be with you but I know that I believe in you. You were and always will be the best thing that ever happened to me. Love, Dad.”
Another keepsake was a scrapbook participants created. Inside was a family photograph and a copy of the letter written to their child.
Several MCRP participants were selected to assist with setup and table service during the event.
Lead server Tim Hagler, a program participant, said he was happy to help for such an amazing evening.
“It was such an honor to be allowed the opportunity to be part of such a special event. Dressing up and trying my best to provide the best service was my top priority,” he said. “All-in-all it was a beautiful experience to see the joy on the kids’ faces when they got to spend quality time with their dads.”
Another participant agreed, saying it was a great experience.
“I know I speak for all the father’s here at MCRP when I say that the Father/Child Dance here in Long Beach was a great experience,” said Victor Melgar. “For me, this was my first of many dances to come with my daughter. These types of events at MCRP have given me a greater bond with my daughter and family.”
Jovanny Reyes, another father, echoed those sentiments, saying he’s getting to know his daughter thanks to the program.
“This year, I was fortunate to come to MCRP. In the two months I have been in this program, I have gotten to know my daughter and got to experience the father/child dance. That day was the most nerve-racking experience for me. But, the moment I walked in to see my daughter, I felt at ease. Her face lit up as we walked into the decorated visiting room and I put on her corsage. Everything about the event was perfect. My daughter has not stopped talking about it and wants to know when the next dance is. This is so vital in my rehabilitation and I am grateful,” said Reyes.
Participant Joseph Bunkley said the dance strengthened his relationship with his daughter.
“This dance definitely helped me solidify a tighter bond with my daughter by engaging in hands-on activities such as creating a memory book with her, taking pictures, and dancing. This all led to the most important part of the night, standing before her and saying how proud I am and how much I love her, which made her feel special,” he said.
According to MCRP event organizers, the family reunification dance was a positive experience for everyone, creating a space for young children and their fathers to focus on the importance of healthy, strong relationships.
The MCRP allows eligible offenders committed to state prison to serve the end of their sentences in the reentry center and provides them the programs and tools necessary to transition from custody to the community. It is a voluntary program for male offenders who have approximately two years left to serve. The program links offenders to a range of community-based rehabilitative services that assist with substance use disorders, mental health care, medical care, employment, education, housing, family reunification and social support.