That is one of the reasons Dowdy has received the national father of the year honor from the Committed Father’s Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes fatherhood programs.
But it wasn’t that long ago when Dowdy’s visits with his children were rare.
The 29-year-old father said that just two years ago he was going through a difficult time. He was hanging with a rough crowd, dealing with a difficult divorce and felt isolated from his children.
Then Dowdy heard about MELD for Young Dads, a support group for fathers aged 16 to 25 that offers classes and support.
“I was looking for something positive,” he said. “I needed to straighten up and do some positive things.”
He said he made mistakes when he and his ex-wife were divorcing.
“We were both very young, we had a lot of outside influences, and instead of doing what’s best for our kids, we were lashing out,” he said.
But Dowdy soon realized that his behavior was hurting his children. Despite custody issues and hurt feelings, Dowdy said he pushed through it, having lunch with his children at their daycare center twice a week and working to build a relationship with the mother of his children.
He said he and his ex-wife, Lashunte Dammond, now have a great relationship. They are quick to work together to make sure they both spend ample time with their children.
“None of this would be possible without Jesus Christ,” he said.
Charles Smith, the director of MELD, nominated Dowdy for the award. He said that when he heard about the national honor, Dowdy was the first man he thought of.
“He refused to give up, he was so relentless,” he said. “His children were the most important thing to him.”
Dowdy said the worst moment for him was when he couldn’t reach his children.
“That was the breaking point,” he said. “It was the chance of getting to see them just for a moment that kept me going, kept me pushing to see them.”
Jayla Dowdy, 6, is his middle child. She says she loves to dance with her daddy, and her favorite songs to dance to are the songs he wrote for them.
Dowdy wrote a song called “The Letters” for his three children — Jayla, Jamya, 7, and Jai Jr., 3. The song is centered around a letter written to each of the children the day they were born.
“I had so much I wanted to tell them, I could only say it in song,” he said.
Gloria Dickson, head of the Committed Father’s Alliance, said that when she read about Dowdy she knew he was the perfect recipient for the award.
“He was so committed to being a part of his children’s lives,” she said.
Dowdy will be flown to Washington, D.C., for the National Partnership for Community Leadership conference in June.
For more information about MELD, contact Charles Smith, site coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.