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Life Skills Re-Entry Center host first Father-Daughter Dance

The Illinois corrections center gives families a chance to reunite and spend some quality time together.
Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 5:45 PM CDT
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KEWANEE, Illinois (KWQC) - A few dozen women sat waiting in a colorful visitation room for the start of the first-ever Father-Daughter dance at the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center. Across the facility, the dads were waiting in the gym.

For some of them, this was just the first or second time the families have been together since the start of the pandemic, leading to some emotional reunions.

“I get to spend time with my kids,” said Walter Cunningham, who has been incarcerated at the center since 2019. “I haven’t spent time with them in a long time. They were babies when I left. So this gives me a chance to reunite and spend time with them.”

Music played in the gym, some of the men grilled burgers and hot dogs, and a booth was set up to take family photos.

The event is organized by the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s Kappa Epsilon Sigma chapter, based out of Bloomington-Normal. They normally do the event in Bloomington, but one of the members is a former warden at the center and saw an opportunity to give families some memories to cherish.

“Maybe they’re just used to seeing them on the phone, or seeing a picture of them,” said Doni Walker, the vice president of the chapter. “I know for a fact there are some folks here, this is their first time to really touch and be around and experience being with their father. So we’re really excited to bring that opportunity to them.”

And opportunities aren’t uncommon at the center. They offer classes, counseling, certifications, and more. Services that Cunningham has used to the fullest. Since moving to the Re-Entry Center, he’s been certified for restaurant management and safety sanitation. He’s also taken classes like financial literacy and communication.

“That’s why you come to this place,” he said. “They have a lot to offer, so you have to take advantage of it. It gives you that fighting chance, so when you get out you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do. You leave with a skill set, you leave with a new thinking of mind, and it just helps you out a lot.”

The center estimates that around 20 men met with their daughters for the dance, with the daughters’ ages ranging from 5 to 31 years old.

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