On Thursday, September 29, the Long Beach Post hosted an event to honor young people from around the city who are doing great things to better their community and beyond. Out of hundreds of nominations from our readers, judges chose 40 winners, representing a range of professions and activism. The Post will be profiling each honoree in the coming days.
When the responsibilities and pressures of being a young dad took its toll on Long Beach native Brian Hagens, he turned those hardships into a positive outcome, creating Dreamdads, an organization meant to help fathers have a presence in their children’s lives.
Hagens—a 1994 Poly High graduate and CIF champion—had his oldest son at the age of 20, which forced him to sacrifice any potential for an NBA career or college degree to help raise him without any support at the time. Hagen was all his son had.
“The early responsibility of parenthood matured my intentions to become a solid leader, and primary example for not only him, but the dads that I knew [who] let their sons go astray, or grow up in Long Beach without Dads,” Hagens said.
Hagens said staying positive helped him get through frustrating days and nights as a young father and, ultimately, his faith in God for strength developed into a passion to help other dads who struggle with the same process.
For Hagens, there is no excuse—other than death—for dads not to raise their own children, and allowing his son to grow up in Long Beach the way Hagens did was not acceptable either.
“Gangbanging since 8 years old, which was a normal way of life for me at one point as a youth, was the last thing I was going to introduce my son to,” Hagens said. “Abandonment, neglect, and ignorance was a bowl of soup I did not want him to taste.”
This mentality became a reality for Hagens, allowing him to start Dreamdads.
Hagens said the organization spreads the values of love, encouragement and responsibility among parents. In addition, over the last several years, Hagens has turned down donations, which he feels would impede on instilling the value of responsibility into these fathers and allowing them to grow into men.
Now, Dreamdads is looking to expand its mission across the country. Here in Long Beach, the group is working to raise funds to build up Martin Luther King Park and, according to his nominator, who called Hagens a leader, he was also recently involved in organizing a community school supply giveaway that was sponsored by Snoop Dogg, Warren G and other Long Beach legends.
“It was a true honor to receive recognition from our city, Long Beach, where Dreamdads was born,” said Hagens.” We do things as a committee, so all I did was attend for all our Dreamdads.”