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At first, all Ericka Sanders wanted to do was organize a father-daughter dance at the Indiana Educational Re-Entry Facility. Ericka herself struggled to maintain a good relationship with her father, and when he recently passed away, she knew it was her calling to change that for other young girls.
Ericka Sanders, organizer, at a father-daughter dance for inmates at the Indianapolis Re-entry Educational Facility, Indianapolis, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. The event was organized by Sanders, who didn’t grow up with a father and wanted to connect dads and daughters who haven’t been able to spend this kind of time together due to incarceration.
The You Yes You Project organized the daddy-daughter dance. The men had to follow strict guidelines, attend required workshops and stay out of trouble. The group started with 20 men, but the list dropped to 11 men who fulfilled their requirements. Once the daughters made it inside the prison, they were escorted to a room that had been decorated by their fathers.
The event’s organizer, Ericka Sanders, put the day together from a personal place. “I know what it’s like not to have your dad, not to grow up with your dad,” she said. Her goal with the event, she added, was to “Help them build, rebuild, strengthen the relationships that they have with their daughters, because all the dads at this facility are getting ready to re-enter society.”
For fathers who find themselves out of their child’s life and behind bars, it can be tough to reenter and reestablish that bond once released from prison. A local non-profit is working to make the transition easier.
A group of dads is getting a unique chance to bond with their kids. They are doing it while in jail. For three years the non-profit You Yes You! has partnered with the Putnamville Correctional facility to make it happen. The idea is to really help them stay bonded through incarceration,” said You Yes You! executive director Ericka Sanders.
Growing up, Ericka Sanders didn’t know her father. He left when she just a baby and never entirely came back. There were conversations, broken promises and disappointments. And eventually, understanding and acceptance. But Sanders, now 33 and a parent herself, still remembers what it was like and has always wished there was more.
Ericka Sanders loves Indianapolis. She was born and raised on the North Side and is a proud North Central Panther. A writer at heart, Ericka spent eight years as a journalist at The Indianapolis Recorder covering everything from the Indiana Pacers to writing an award winning series on the historic Ransom Place neighborhood to interviewing her favorite authors including the late E. Lynn Harris and BebeMoore Campbell.