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Daddy-daughter event helps dads define importance of doting on daughters

Published: Thursday, June 14 2012 9:53 p.m. MDT

Isaac Giron and his stepdaughter Natalia Olivo-Giron will be going to the daddy-daughter dance in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The fourth annual Daddy-Daughter Ball attracts all types of dads from all age ranges and ethnicities, but they are connected in one way:

They all share an unconditional love for their daughters and families.

William Albert Smith's job at the University of Utah includes such titles as associate dean for Diversity, Access and Equity and faculty athletics representative. However, his day job ends at 5 p.m. and that is when he begins his full-time job as father and and family man.

The 48-year-old Smith, a Chicago native whose parents were divorced when he was young, was raised by his mom and mentored by his grandfather. His dad was a bodyguard for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and was always away from home working.

Smith said he decided that he would not make that same sacrifice with his children.

"She (his daughter) controls my calendar," said Smith with a smile. "I try to end my day by 5 o'clock so I can do my night job, which is to attend to her and her brothers."

He plans on attending the daddy-daughter ball Friday night with his daughter — 12-year-old Sakara Abena Bakenra — for the second straight year.

The ball is hosted by the Fathers and Families Coalition of Utah, which promotes healthy relationships between dads and their families. The coalition is expecting more than 50 daddy-daughter couples for the event held at the Dual Immersion Academy in Salt Lake City.

It's activities like these that Smith said he had long hoped for.

"I dreamed about having a daughter all my adult life. I knew how special that relationship is and so I definitely wanted a girl," Smith said. "I knew what I was going to do with my daughter, if I ever had one. She came last out of my four children, so that is even a more special place because I can spoil her just a little bit more and get away with it."

Smith said he doesn't take the little things for granted because he knows the importance of events like the dance.

"(The ball is) just another opportunity to spend more quality time with my daughter. I believe that as much quality time as you can spend with your kids, particularly with a father and his daughter, it helps with pro-social development, it helps with your relationship," he said.

Sakara, a top student at her middle school, plays competitive soccer and basketball and also runs track. She and her older brother competed in the Junior Olympics last year. She does not like to wear dresses.

"This is at least one time out of the year that she promised me she will wear a dress," he said. "The first time it was a little difficult to get her in it (the dress), but she enjoyed it."

Sakara said she decided to let her dad take her to the ball, "because I thought at would make him happy."

Smith said he believes each parent is given the opportunity to make an impact in their children's lives.

"If you miss that opportunity, sometimes you don't get a second chance," he said. "You never know because tomorrow is not promised."

*****

Juan Mercado, 38, took the first opportunity he had to provide a quality life for his family.

He came from a family that included 12 siblings, but left his native state of Durango, Mexico, at age 17 and found himself in Los Angeles. He met his wife and they decided that Los Angeles was no place to raise a family, so they started looking at other states.

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