- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2006

A charity for children who have lost their fathers plans to begin a campaign next month to fill a need for more than a million young people in America.

Daddy’s Spirit Moves Me Forward, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, is seeking to build a network of support to provide recreational opportunities, financial assistance to caregivers seeking grief-counseling services and college scholarships.

“It was the absence of support in my childhood that helped spur me to realize that there is this sort of need,” said Ron Opher, founder and executive director of Daddy’s Spirit, who lost his father when he was 15.

He said he saw many groups working with children who have lost their mothers, such as Mommy’s Light Lives On, a national organization whose mission is to help children and teens keep alive traditions and simple pleasures they shared with their mothers.

“But there is nothing for fathers,” Mr. Opher said. “I spoke with Mommy’s Light and was encouraged by them to start this organization.”

Daddy’s Spirit will kick off its national campaign March 6 in Philadelphia, seeking volunteers and regular donors.

The group is currently deciding whether it will build its national base through affiliated chapters or through some other means, but Mr. Opher, 40, said he prefers to establish chapters and said he will be visiting Washington next month to solicit volunteers and donations here.

“There are people who overcome this and are successful, but always carry it with them, and we want to help them through this process,” he said. “I’m hoping we can tap into these individuals and give them an opportunity to help others succeed while carrying this burden and sadness.”

However, he said the group does not want to jump right in with volunteers acting as surrogates, which potentially could have a negative effect.

In grief counseling, the presence of a surrogate could be devastating to a child, particularly if a child grows attached to a surrogate who then, for some reason, leaves the program — creating what professionals call a secondary loss.

Mr. Opher said that type of situation can set back the recovery from grief by months and even years.

“We want to create a system where people can get funds to pay for the services they need,” he said.

The group’s services would be targeted to teens and young adults just leaving for college. National Statistics show that more than a million youths under the age of 20 are living with the tragedy of their father’s absence as a result of death, which often leaves the child in a state of poverty and a loss of direction in life.

“That is why we want to develop a scholarship fund for children who are burdened financially. We want to give them something to build on as they enter college,” Mr. Opher said.

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