Operation Hero Daddy launches today as a charity with a chance at improving the relationship between children and their dads. Donald Stidham, the founder of Operation Hero Daddy, said it is his goal to get a free copy of his children’s book, “The Adventures of Bubba and Sissy: Daddy Does the Same Thing,” into the hands of every child who is separated from their father so they can share an imaginary adventure with their dad.
“Oftentimes, Dad is not able to be with his children every night because of night-shift jobs, travel jobs, divorce, or service in the military,” Stidham said. “My book introduces children to the concept that Dad is right there with them through their adventures. It is important to show children that their father plays a vital role in their development. ‘The Adventures of Bubba and Sissy: Daddy Does the Same Thing’ will increase literacy, strengthen family bonds, and ignite the imaginations of children to experience every day as an adventure with Dad.”
The illustrated artwork was done by Stidham, who saw his son draw his own visual interpretation of Stidham one day. Coincidentally, Stidham noticed the exact drawings of parents by two other unrelated sources, which convinced him to go with similar cartoon stick figures almost as a universal language for socially acceptable, kid-friendly images of people.
“It’s a hand-drawn book for moms to read to their children while the father is absent,” Stidham explained. “Operation Hero Daddy is a token of thanks to the military-serving families in Tennessee, and if funds exceed the goal, to families of the surrounding states, with a free copy of the book being handed to them.”
Stidham said he spoke to representatives at the Cleveland National Guard and presented them with a copy, and “the soldiers were very excited to get behind project Operation Hero Daddy, which is the name of the charity on StartSomeGood.com. It launches April 2, as a fundraiser to get free copies of this book into the hands of military families serving at the Cleveland Guard, then Arnold Air Force Base, and Naval Support Activity Mid-South, near Memphis. I would like to make Cleveland aware of this charity and give our citizens the opportunity to donate and make this project a success.”
Stidham, who was born at Bradley Memorial Hospital (now SkyRidge) in Cleveland and raised in a household with four children by his mother after his father’s death to pancreatic cancer, knows the pain of wishing he had more time with his father. Now living as a father separated from his own children due to a rocky marriage after seven years, Stidham also knows the pain of a father missing his kids and wanting to do something extra to ease their pain as well as his own.
“I have two beautiful children who live separate from me,” he said. “I focused all my energy to develop a tool that helps them understand and deal with this separation, while also inspiring them to look at the world through positive eyes. Upon realizing that many other fathers deal with separation from their children as well, I started Operation Hero Daddy to share this positive development. It’s not just a book, but an inspiration to families to create a lasting bond of friendship and adventure, because children are the most precious gifts of all.”
Stidham, an employee for Coca-Cola in Chattanooga, said as he visited his children not long ago. As they saw how the story was progressing, he said his son and daughter became excited at what they saw and started picturing themselves as the characters in the book.
“They really, really liked it! That’s when I realized there are other dads going through this as divorced parents or fathers who travel to make a living. But then my mind went toward the military and I thought, ‘Wow! That’s a higher calling.’ Men who are away from their families and dealing with the separation from their kids — then I started thinking from a military aspect.”
The idea suddenly went from a book to a campaign. Stidham, who works in the loading department building palettes for Coke, said one day he was talking to some printers about printing a sticker to put on his truck about Operation Hero Daddy. That conversation led to him talking to a Coke rep in marketing.
“I told him about what was going on and he said he loved it! He said his wife was head of a children’s ministry in Chattanooga. So he sent a message out to seven different emails. Finally, a lady contacted me and asked if they could run the concept on Coke’s Internet.”
So far, nearly 1,000 Coke employees have viewed Operation Hero Daddy online, giving it five-star approval. Stidham said it is exciting to see how his idea has snowballed and is picking up momentum as families interested in creating stronger bonds with their children are looking to the charity operation as a much-needed tool to help unite fathers and their children in a unique way. If the book is a success, Stidham promised an Operation Hero Mommy for mothers to connect more with their children when they are away.
“The Cleveland Guard gave me a number — close to 200 books,” Stidham said. “If we can raise $5,000 I will be able to order those books and hand them out for free. They said July would be a perfect time to come in and hand out the books. If we’re getting close to that $5,000 donation, I can contact the other military bases and let them know that I would like to bring the books to hand out in person as a gift — just to say thank you. Then these dads can send the books to their children and share an adventure.”
Stidham said his efforts come from his love of people and of families in a time when separation and divorce are hurting more children than ever before.
“If I can just strengthen a bond that’s already there — hey, it can’t be wrong,” he added. “I love it. I tried so hard to be a good dad and I see how positively it affects my kids. I want other people to do the same thing. I just like to see kids happy.”
For further information on Operation Hero Dad, visit: http://startsomegood.com/Venture/operation_hero_daddy#sthash.3fh3mGIv.dpuf.