by Drew Soleyn
It’s hard to believe that I’ve officially been in the role of Director, Dad Central Ontario for almost a month. How time has flown. Now that I can take a moment to reflect, I’m excited to introduce myself to our community. I’m also excited to share my observations and enthusiasm for the future of Dad Central Ontario.
My name is Drew Soleyn and I’m blessed to be a dad to three beautiful children. I’m also grateful to have a wonderful partner with whom I share my life and parenting journey. Professionally, I’ve spent most of my career in higher education, focusing on developing programs and services that supplement the educational journey. Currently I work in career services at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, where I serve as a career coach and strategic adviser across undergraduate and Master’s programs (nine in total).
While I want to share those details for you to know my personal and professional profile, I’m more interested in sharing a short personal story.
The Journey to Fatherhood & Dad Central
Growing up I experienced significant trauma, and the resulting break down of my immediate family – including the parental relationship. As I grew, I tried to distance myself from that experience and leave it in the past. I was blessed with a powerful, wise and relentless mother who stopped at nothing to help me become the person she believed I could be. Part of that included facing the past, working through the pain it caused, and establishing a clear standard for how to live moving forward.
I’m grateful for her belief, despite the many challenges I presented to her growing up.
I can also say I know there are many who have a very similar (or worse) story of trauma but didn’t have the fortune or availability of a person who loved them unconditionally – like my mother did for me. In many cases, the support of organizations that serve children and families becomes essential.
While my mom and I worked on healing, the George Hull Centre for Children and Families in Toronto was a place we found support and acceptance. We also developed the skills and resilience to persevere as a result of their guidance. The staff and resources we connected with during our visits were a valuable and necessary part of our recovery.
Fast forward to 2013 when I became a father for the first time (with twins, by the way). I was grateful, overjoyed, and passionate about being the best dad I could. I was also passionate about helping other dads become the best they could be. What more important job can there be in life?
My conviction came as a result of the void that I always felt growing up without my biological father in the picture. For me, dad life would be different.
Or so I thought.
Little did I know, but a few years into my dad journey I found myself struggling, frustrated, and discouraged. I knew there must be a better way, but I saw myself making mistakes that riddled me with guilt.
With the help of important people, relevant resources, and a lot of personal commitment & accountability, I grew through the challenges and emerged a better dad. I also recognized there wasn’t much support available for dads.
That led me to create my own dad program, focussed on serving men who struggled, but had a desire to be great for their kids (and partner). Creating this program to support dads led me to meet Brian Russell, and the Dad Central family. There was an immediate connection.
Which brings me to the fortunate position I now hold as Director, Dad Central Ontario. There is so much that I’ve learned in a short time. I’ve also come to know the quality of people, resources, and advocacy associated with Dad Central. It’s my honour to help continue this legacy and grow the impact of this community.
As I begin this journey, there are four key things that I’ve observed to this point that I’d like to share.
- The network of dedicated professionals
Everywhere I turn, I am introduced to dedicated professionals who serve the needs of communities and families. What I’ve witnessed is an energy, commitment, and compassion for their respective populations. Whether it’s members of the Dad Central Steering Committee, supporters in Public Health, the community and program leaders who come to us for training and resources, or the front line staff who are meeting with and trying to serve dads and families, there is an army of passionate people making a difference in this province and country.
- The volume and quality of resources for dads
Dad Central has amassed a library of researched, validated, engaging and practical resources that equip and empower dads from all walks of life. In addition, we’ve developed service provider tool kits, assessments, training, and programs built from best practices and validated by end user feedback. This library is so extensive and accessible that it has spread across the country – and in many cases is requested and distributed internationally. No matter where dads are, or what they are experiencing, Dad Central has a resource for them.
- The value of organizations supporting families & dads
When families and dads are supported, there are so many positives that result. My story, referenced earlier, is just one such example. I know so many lives have benefited from the caring and support offered through the various organizations across the province (and country). Each of you reading this probably have your own story, or have heard stories of hope, restoration and transformation as a result of organizations who provide service to families and dads. If for some reason you haven’t heard those stories, or rarely see the outcomes – please believe me that your efforts are worth it!
- The need for Dad Central’s message to get out
The evidence continues to pile up: Involved and responsible fathers make a huge impact on the healthy outcomes for children and families. From the volumes of research we’ve supported, it is clear. Involved fathers make a difference. Period.
Whether it’s a dad who needs encouragement to step up in his role, a mom who needs to understand the value of an involved father, or communities to see and value supporting dads to be more involved and responsible – this message needs to be communicated.
A New Chapter for Dad Central Ontario
As I enter this new chapter of Dad Central Ontario, I’m honoured to contribute to enhancing the lives of children and families. The work we do, the communities we serve, and the difference we strive to bring about is immensely important to me. I believe that when dads show up at their best, we create healthier and happier children, who grow to be healthier and happier adults. That is an outcome worth fighting for – as a dad for my young children, and as a society.
If you believe this too, then I invite you to engage with us. If you’re on social media, then follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
If you need resources and want to support dads in your community then visit our store or call our office to order. You can also refer people to www.dadcentral.ca to get free copies of the resources, or to www.mydad.ca for the My Dad Matters toolkit: a resource that equips organizations and providers to become more father friendly.
If you’re a service provider and are struggling to engage dads – let’s talk. We deliver training on building and growing your father friendliness, in addition to a variety of other training that supports front line staff and/or leadership. Email us at email@example.com to set up a call to review your needs.
What’s Happening Next and a Request
As I look to the future I’m excited at what we can achieve. I’m confident we have a solid foundation upon which to build and am looking forward to having your continued support on the journey.
In a future post, I will provide more info on what’s happening and any new plans. My goal is to keep you updated as a valued part of the Dad Central community.
I’m also open to your feedback and thoughts on anything I’ve shared today. Please comment below or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to connecting with you.
I’ll end my first message with a request:
Please go and tell a dad, any dad, how much he is needed and how important he is in the lives of his children. As my friend and mentor John C. Maxwell said,
“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach their potential.”