All daddy-daughter dances have that “aww” factor, but the Him & Me Dance is truly awe-inspiring.
With its seventh go-round scheduled for this Sunday, August 4, the annual event is planned by suicide prevention nonprofit Alive on Purpose to strengthen the bond between dads and daughters—and bring much-needed awareness to the fact that 63 percent of all suicides come from fatherless homes.
“We offer father-daughter experiences that show dads the importance of being in their daughters’ lives and the effects that having a positive role model can have on their mental health,” explains LaToyia Jones, who founded Alive on Purpose in 2012.
Him & Me event Jones says over 650 people are expected to attend this Sunday’s Him & Me dance, which is being held at Windows on the River, 2000 Sycamore Street, and is Northeast Ohio's biggest event of its kind. Most of the girls are between the ages of six and eight years old, which is a younger target demographic than most of Alive on Purpose’s programming.
“Him & Me is our proactive piece of programming, whereas the rest of our Alive on Purpose programming is reactive,” explains Jones. “Our teen programming helps girls ages 13 to 17 with a low to moderate risk of depression and suicidal ideation gain a sense of value and purpose in life.”
The nonprofit accomplishes that through both school- and community-based programming offered around Cleveland (but heavily concentrated in Euclid and Maple Heights). Alive on Purpose groups meet regularly to discuss various conversation topics and provide a feeling of sisterhood for girls who need it most. Last year, 218 girls were enrolled at schools including John Hay High School, Wade Park Elementary School, Bedford Intermediate School, and more.
“We try to make Alive on Purpose very light even though they have heavy lives,” says Jones. “Our programming is very fun and purpose-based, helping them see who they really are with character development.”
Jones says the concept for the Him & Me dance grew out of an Alive on Purpose group that met back in 2013. “All five of the girls in the group had stories about their dads that connected to their depression—from their dads being in prison to their dads passing away,” says Jones. “It caused pain for them and the inability to function in life due to that void.”
In an effort to provide additional programming, Jones decided to introduce the Him & Me concept, which includes not only the annual dance but programming that teaches dads and daughters about effective communication, financial literacy, safety, and the importance of parental involvement.
“For the financial literacy piece, we do Monopoly parties, and for safety, we go ice skating,” says Jones. “Most of the time when kids are afraid they reach for Mom, so ice skating is a way to put dads and daughters in an uncomfortable situation together.”
Jones was named one of FreshWater’s “Fresh 10” in 2018 and has also been called one of Cleveland's 25 most influential women by WZAK. Though she still has a day job at Progressive Insurance, she stays fully committed to her work with Alive on Purpose—after all, she lived it.
“When I meet the girls, I see a mini-version of myself,” says Jones. “I was the girl who often felt displaced and misunderstood, and I had suicidal ideations myself. As you navigate through a rough childhood, you need extra support. Alive on Purpose provides that sense of family that is irreplaceable. And that ‘s why I do what I do: to give what I needed as a child to those who need it today.”