REEL FATHERS-Father's Day Fiesta: Father gazes on young daughter held in his arms


REEL FATHERS’ work is inspired by a vision of communities where fathers are valued and respected. They enjoy being vibrantly engaged with their children and work with their partners as skilled and nurturing co-parents. Children grow up in close-knit families, succeed in school, and become healthy, productive members of a flourishing community.


To work toward this vision, we engage fathers, youth and families to build stronger, more vital relationships through a dynamic use of film, story and creative expression.

Program Need and Strategies

The last 40 years have brought a dramatic rise in father absence. Today more than one in three children in the U.S. lives absent from their biological father. A single stunning fact connects youth who drop out of school…use drugs…get pregnant…commit crimes…are incarcerated… become depressed…commit suicide. Absent or alienated fathers are a factor 60-95% of the time.  

As a nonprofit founded in 2009, REEL FATHERS responds to this crisis of father engagement. We support men to love, nurture and care for their children as skillful co-parents. We invite teen boys and girls – our future parents – to gain new insight into their relationship with their father, and to imagine the experience of fatherhood they want for themselves.

Fathers:  To serve fathers we've developed an innovative program approach that taps the power of story told through film and poetry. The stories we select spark reflective dialogue on the dilemmas and rewards of being a father. They invite comments from fathers that become natural springboards for imparting skills that improve communication, build closer relationships, and strengthen families. Dads are inspired and empowered as they learn intuitively in a supportive, enjoyable environment.

Youth:  REEL FATHERS also serves youth -- our future fathers and mothers. Fathers in Focus is a 2-week, in-school poetry intensive for 9th grade students. Youth develop their creative voice as they reflect, write, and share poems in response to two core questions:

  • What does "father" mean to me?
  • What do I want it to mean, in my own future?

A small volunteer group creates a dramatic group production for younger students and the community, furthering the program's impact.


REEL FATHERS began in January 2008 when Allan Shedlin and Deborah Boldt teamed up with Don McAvinchey, LISW. With their combined backgrounds in education, filmmaking, community outreach, family therapy and group facilitation, they worked with PMS Head Start to create an innovative program for fathers and their children 3-5.  Learn more about REEL FATHERS Staff members.

The focus of the program was a bilingual, animated children's video with a father-family theme. Men enjoyed watching the video with their child, then did an art project together based on the story. Staff took children to a separate space and the dads gathered for a dialogue facilitated by a REEL FATHERS staff member. The men were eager to share their impressions, questions, and insights. They affirmed and encouraged each other. They learned positive new ways to communicate. They felt a new sense of belonging, of being welcome at the center. Dads and Kids Movie Night was born.Dads and Kids Movie Night-La Communidad

From the success of this first program, REEL FATHERS has been invited to provide services for PMS and YDI Head Start and Early Head Start centers, United Way's Early Learning Center, the NM Department of Health, Many Mothers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Santo Domingo Pueblo Social Services. Through year-end 2016 we have produced 63 program sessions for fathers and children in Santa Fe, Espanola, Taos and Albuquerque. in 2012 Dads and Kids Movie Night was cited as a "best practice" by HHS/Administration for Children and Families-Region 6 for its fresh approach to father engagement.

In December 2015 Allan Shedlin stepped down from his administrative responsibilities as President. As Founder and President Emeritus, he continues to support REEL FATHERS’ fundraising and development. 

Regional and National Conferences

REEL FATHERS has been invited to present workshops and speak about its innovative programs at a number of regional and national conferences. These include:

"I have a way better picture of the dad I want to be...how to handle situations I didn't know how to handle before."
                         ~ Gabe C.
    • National and New Mexico Associations for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC and NMAEYC)
    • OMEP (Organisation Mondiale Pour L’Éducation Préscholaire) International Conference
    • National Head Start Conference
    • Arizona Fathers and Families Conference
    • Family Leadership Action Network (FLAN) Conference
    • Native American Fathers and Families Association Conference
    • U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF) District 6 Regional Meeting
    • Fathers and Children Together (FACT) Fatherhood Conference in Fort Worth, Texas
    • United Nations Conference on the State of Fathers

Program Partners

REEL FATHERS collaborates with a broad spectrum of organizations. Partnering organizations have included:

Adelante Program/Santa Fe Public Schools
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern New Mexico
The Birthing Tree Cooperative
Northern New Mexico ENLACE (ENgaging LAtino  Communities for Education)
The Harwood Museum of Art/Taos
Many Mothers
GEAR UP New Mexico
Penitentiary of New Mexico
Nonviolence Works, Inc./Taos (formerly Men Engaged in Nonviolence)

Northern New Mexico Birth Center/Taos
Parents Reaching Out/Albuquerque
PB&J Family Services/Albuquerque
PMS-Head Start/Santa Fe County
Ramirez Thomas Elementary School/Santa Fe Public Schools
Santo Domingo Pueblo
United Way of Santa Fe County
Warehouse 21/Santa Fe Teen Arts Center
Young Fathers of Santa Fe
Youth Development Inc. (YDI)/Albuquerque
Youth Media Project

Through these partnerships REEL FATHERS addresses the continuum of child to adult development, cutting across lines of age, gender, culture, and socio-economic background. Read more about our Partnership Programs.

"Now I will talk to my children about their dreams and mine as well."
                         ~ Sheldon T.

Philanthropic Partners

Our work is made possible by the generous support of foundations, individual donors, local businesses and partnering organizations. Institutional partners and donors have included:

Bread for the Journey Foundation
Brindle Foundation 
Buckaroo Ball Foundation Fund, Santa Fe Community Foundation
Edward S. Moore Family Foundation
The Frost Foundation  
The Marc Haas Foundation  
Livingry Foundation  
Los Alamos National Bank (LANB)  
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation  
McCune Charitable Foundation 
Newman's Own Foundation
New Mexico Children's Foundation
Santa Fe Community Foundation 
The Seabury Foundation  
The Allan Shedlin (Sr.) Foundation  
Shlenker Block Fund, Houston Jewish Community Foundation  
The Sulica Fund  
Thornburg Foundation
UBS Financial Services
100 Women Who Care Santa Fe 

As a tax-exempt organizaton, defined under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service, REEL FATHERS is eligible to receive charitable contributions. Read more about our Philanthropic Partners. 
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Photography by Jane Bernard, Polly Brown, Linda Carfagno, Teri Thomson Randall, Don Usner.
Website design by Desert Elements, Santa Fe, NM.

© REEL FATHERS, Ltd. 2009.

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