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Paternal instinct to help other single dads
by Cynthia Petersen Correspondent · June 22nd, 2017

Single dads are gaining more support these days, especially with the help of local nonprofit, Paternal Guardians of Iowa (PGI).

Ryan Knapp, founder and CEO of PGI, said the organization is "a network of support and a resource center for fathers dealing with custody issues." Knapp started the group because of his own experience gaining custody of his son.

"I found that there is a lack of resources for fathers preparing for, as well as going through, the custody process," said the 27-year-old Knapp. "Our legal system is creating the fatherless epidemic in America."

Knapp said that becoming a first-time father in a difficult situation and dealing with the unknown was, by far, the scariest thing he has ever had to go through.

"I wasn't allowed to see my son when he was born. I wasn't even notified of his birth; instead all I was told was that DHS would be contacting me regarding child support. With having no knowledge of how this worked, or my rights, I had to hire a lawyer. I will never forget the very first thing he told me after I had explained my situation to him.

"He told me, 'I'm going to be completely upfront and honest with you. We have a good case here, but to just get the same rights that his mother already has, is a minimum of $10,000. If the case drags out, you could be looking easily anywhere over $20,000 when it's all said and done. If this isn't a problem then all we need is a retainer fee of $2,000 and we can get started.'

"Did I really have a choice? After a $2,000 down payment and two months of legal work I was finally able to meet my son for the very first time. Which was the first of many happiest days of my life."

During the next two years, Knapp said he hit some of the all-time lows in his life.

"Luckily, I had a great support system with my family and friends, who never failed to pick me up when I was down. They were never afraid to offer a lending hand when I needed it most and they were always dependable when I needed someone to reach out to. When all was said and done, I would eventually spend a little over $25,000 in two years to get sole legal custody of my son, who is now 2 years old. At the end of this, I realized how lucky I was to have the support system that I had to get me through this; but not everyone is that lucky."

Knapp said he is grateful for the support, but thought about other fathers going through the same thing and felt like he needed to do something to help them.

"What if I didn't have parents that had the ability to, or felt the need to, provide the down payment for the attorney in the first place? What if I didn't have the support system I had to pick me up when I was down? Where would I be right now if those two things weren't there for me? These questions are the focal points to our mission and identity."

Knapp said the Paternal Guardians of Iowa organization's main goal, established in September, 2015, is to end the fatherless epidemic, and ensure every child grows up with a positive and active dad. However, Knapp said he realizes there will always be a situation they cannot solve.

"For this reason, what we want to accomplish in the short term is to provide services to fathers that want to be involved and who would be positive figures in their child's life, but who are at risk of walking away because of the lack of support and resources available to them," explained Knapp.

"We have also started a bike charter called PGI Riders," said Knapp. "Its purpose is to raise money for local charities while spreading awareness for the Paternal Guardians of Iowa's mission through poker runs and biker events."

The group is holding its first PGI Riders Annual Poker Run on Saturday, July 8.

Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Metro Harley Davidson with kickstands up at 11 a.m.

The ride will end at Wild Hogs in Walford where there will be a live band, an auction, and a raffle. The proceeds will be shared with the University of Iowa's Children's Hospital.

Anther upcoming event is the SuperDad Grill Out on Saturday, June 24, at Thomas Park, in Marion, from 5 to 7 p.m.

"This will be a meet-and-greet with the public to raise awareness of our mission and who we are. We will be grilling out hot dogs which will be free with registration. We will also be raffling off three toddler bikes, gift cards, and PGI T-shirts," said Knapp.

The theme is Superhero for SuperDad. Everyone is encouraged to come dressed up as their favorite superhero. There will be a panel of judges deciding the best costume, best father child duo, and most creative. Winners will receive a $25 gift card to Toys"R"Us.

Paternal Guardians of Iowa is a member-based 5013 nonprofit. Those interested in becoming a member can contact Knapp at There is a $40 annual donation requirement.

Motorcyclists who are interested in becoming a PGI Rider can contact Don Knapp at To become an active member with the bike charter, there is a $20 annual donation requirement.
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