Contributed by David Vesper, Alaska Fathers' Rights Movement
The Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement sponsored the 2017 50/50 Grind Skateboard Competition on July 9th at the skateboard park in Wasilla, Alaska. The event featured seven local skateboarders as young as eleven years old. Local children kicked off the competition with a scooter jam.
Matt Edmondson of Eagle River, AK organized the event. “I got the idea when I took my kids to the skate park this spring. It was a great connection. I decided to add the (AK) Fathers’ Rights Movement because of my personal situation.”
Edmondson was one of three judges who scored a 10-point scale based on technique, style and use of the skate park. Soloman Harris took first place followed by Erin Hogan (2nd) and Uriah Martinez (3rd). Erin Hogan gave his 2nd place trophy to the youngest competitor, eleven year old Eli Stewart. “It’s about the kids,” he said. The smile on Eli’s face as he got in to the car with his mother said it all. When asked if he would come back next year, Eli emphatically said, “Yes.”
It was a family-oriented affair. Most of the spectators were children and a few parents. “My personal life has affected this because I found skating as an outlet and a way to free my mind. I know others feel this way too from the conversations I’ve had with others. The event was a major success. The weather showed up better than expected and people were ecstatic to have a local event,” remarked Edmonson.
Edmondson’s need to free his mind was because of his personal situation. Involved in a child custody dispute, he supports the Fathers’ Rights Movement and looks to the organization as a positive outlet. The Fathers’ Rights Movement is a worldwide non-profit organization whose members, both men and women, support a cause of equal presumption of child custody as well as other family law related issues.
The mother of the founder and president of the Fathers’ Rights Movement was in attendance at the event. Peggy Whitman Groth’s son, Thomas Fidler, founded the movement in her kitchen. She has seen the movement grow from an idea conceived in Wasilla to an international movement with over 400,000 supporters and chapters in Australia to Canada to the United Kingdom.
“I would like to give a special thanks to all of the skaters and judges that helped pull this together. Erin Hogan, David White, David Vesper, Matt Edmondson and Solomon Harris… thank you. The First Annual 50/50 Grind Skateboard Competition was successful because of you. To the competitors, you are all awesome and we hope to see you back next year.”
David Vesper is the Alaska Chapter of the Fathers’ Rights Movement State Lead. “The need for this organization exists in Alaska. One in seven Alaskans are affected by family law… many of them adversely. Since I have become involved with the movement last October, we have seen a 350% rise in support for the Alaska FRM,” mentions Vesper.
“The stories I have read and heard involved in the Alaska family law process are appalling. But, this event reminds us why we do what we do… for the kids and families. I enjoyed watching the kids in the scooter jam, a father and son skateboard together, a father bringing his son to join him to receive his trophy, and an eleven year old boy competing with teenagers and young men.”
This environment is what helps Matt Edmondson ground himself and focus on his son caught in the middle of his case. Matt Edmondson has been fighting for visitation with his son for almost four years and has been restricted to supervised visits once a week. With his job as a bridge construction crewman, it has been difficult to achieve. He advises other fathers to not give up, do not turn to drugs or alcohol and do not kill yourself.
“… My advice. It’s hard, but it’s the truth.”
Edmondson’s advice comes on the difficult and depressing times he has endured during this period of his life. His situation is not uncommon. Many parents faced with parental alienation, bullying lawyer litigation tactics that run expenses in tens of thousands of dollars and an oppressive state system has led to them on the verge of conceding what’s left of their parental rights and delve into depression. Often times, the depression leads to drug and alcohol abuse, loss of a job and even suicide.
“Zero evidence. A false police report. A fifteen minute hearing. I was forced to take a thirty-six week course on anger management by the Department of Corrections and lost my son. I soon fell apart, turned to the bottle and became suicidal. This was not how I envisioned being a father to my son.”
Vesper has seen similar cases like Edmondson’s. He hopes to see other parents become involved in the movement like Matt Edmondson.
“Helping Matt put this together and bring this event into the community has been an honor. Matt has chosen not to give up on his son. Our children need their dads and research has shown that even in post-divorce, children need both parents involved,” added Vesper.
The Alaska Fathers’ Rights Movement has two goals - culturally change the societal stereotypes placed on fathers post-relationship or post-divorce like deadbeat dad or absent father and advocate for family law reform through legislation, beginning with 50/50 rebuttable presumption of shared child custody.
Matt Edmondson and David Vesper plan to organize another competition next year that includes a scooter division. If you are interested in supporting the Fathers’ Rights Movement, like them at www.facebook.com/Fathers4kids/ and the Alaska Chapter at www.facebook.com/TFRMAK/.