Man dedicates life to mentoring teens growing up without fathers

Mentorship for youth growing up without fathers

More than 20 million children in the U.S. live in a home without a father, according to the National Center for Fathering.

But, one man, Benjamin Raymond, with the help of his famous father-in-law, is trying to change the lives of teens who need the love and support of a father.

Raymond is helping teen like, Ulandus Jones, who grew up with a heavy burden.

"I did not know my father. He was in prison for the first 8 years of my life,” said Jones. His mother pulled the weight for the family.

"My mom has always been the father and the mother, so I did not notice his absence as much, but growing up, I always felt there was something missing," Jones said. 

His brother ended up in jail. He says he could have gone down the same path but met Benjamin Raymond.

Raymond not only grew up without his dad but also without his mother. "He has a tougher story than me with his mom and dad out of his life, going through foster care and having great struggles," Jones said. 

Raymond lived in multiple foster homes. His mother lost custody of him because she was drug addicted, and his dad has spent most of his life in prison.

"I saw my father at 3-months-old and didn't see him again until the age of 7. I saw him for 5 minutes and didn't see him again for 20 years,” Raymond said. 

Raymond says other people including his high school coach stepped in and helped him overcome all of that. "When you get loved poured into you, it makes you want to do better," Raymond said. 

That's why he began volunteering with Radio and TV personality Steve Harvey. Harvey has a camp every year for boys who are fatherless.

“They are pouring love into these boys, teaching them manhood principals and ultimately, giving them a father figure that they don't currently have in their life," Raymond said. 

Raymond ended up meeting his wife at the camp. She is also Steve Harvey's daughter. They help sponsor teens for the camp.

This year it was in Atlanta, and one of the teens they sponsored was Ulandus Jones. 

"He is a good inspiration. He keeps me motivated that no matter where you come from, that you can attain whatever you want, whatever you keep your focus on,” said Jones.

Jones says he has been struggling recently since the death of one of his best friends, Ledajrick Cox. Police say Cox was a good kid who was trying to break up an argument between two groups at a 7-Eleven store. 

“It really touched me deeply. He was always the person to bring someone up," Jones said.  He said going to the camp helped him heal from what happened and realized there is a greater purpose for his life.

“I would love to help his legacy live on and help people and to be a better person and stay out of those situations as best as possible,"Jones said. 

Raymond says he knows he can't reach every fatherless child but hopes his message will spread and more men will step up to help teens like Ulandus become successful young men.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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