Shower to Empower draws 1,000 moms, dads and children
by Gregory Lewis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
John Cunningham, 19, grew up in Fort Lauderdale pretty much without his father’s guidance.
“He was around when I was a baby,” he said. “I didn’t care when I got older. He calls every now and then. But it doesn’t matter.”
Cunningham had his first child, a boy, when he was 18. His son’s mother, Natsha St. Martin, is pregnant again with a boy due later this month.
Cunningham accompanied St. Martin to a countywide baby Shower to Empower on Friday at Central Broward Regional Park, where more than 1,000 mothers, fathers and children came to learn about family health care and prenatal and infant health.
The shower, sponsored by the Broward Healthy Start Coalition, is an attempt to lower the black infant mortality rate in Broward County. Black children die before the age of 1 at more than two times the rate of white children in the county.
Cunningham said he sees his child every day, although they do not live together. He goes to school during the day, as does St. Martin, and he works at Wal-Mart at night. He goes to doctor’s appointments with her and came to the shower on Friday “to support her.”
He sat at a “Fathers for Our Futures” station listening to volunteer Sharetta Remikie discuss the importance of fathers.
“You are irreplaceable in the life of your child,” she tells Cunningham and eight other men.
There were sessions about childbirth, infant CPR and car seat safety. Parents also could meet with pediatricians and midwives and get their toddlers immunized.
The room for the shower held 303 people at a time and many pregnant women waited hours in the hot sun to get inside.
Myrtle Dixon, 37, of North Lauderdale, expecting her third child, plopped down in a chair soon after she got inside.
“This is a good thing,” she said of the baby shower. “But there should be a canopy for the registration. This has to be properly planned. You’re talking about pregnant women here.”
At the end of each session, the participants could move to another station. But not before a prize was raffled off.
Vanessa Clark, 31, of Fort Lauderdale, who is expecting her first child in October, won a car seat.
“It’s a blessing,” she said of her prizes, which included diapers. “I came to get some good information and health tips.”