2015 Best NOLA Dad Finalists

Disclosure :: Our 2015 Best NOLA Dad is sponsored by Touro Infirmary

We have some incredible dads in New Orleans! We received some amazing submissions for this year’s Best NOLA Dad campaign … nominated by wives, fiancés, daughters, sons, sisters, and friends … all who have made a difference in the lives of others and who motivate and inspire those around them. It was a very difficult task, and we really wish we could name everyone nominated Best NOLA Dad, but we were finally able to narrow the nominations down to the top 8 finalists.

A team of objective judges from Touro Infirmary will determine the Best NOLA Dad from the top 8 finalists below, and the winner will be announced on Sunday, June 14th!


The Top 8 Finalists

Kamau Smith 

Kamau Smith{Nominated by :: Mercedes Smith & Letreian Johns} Kamau Smith was raised by a single father with his older brother & younger sister. He already had an excellent example of how to be a good father; however, even his dad would agree that Kamau has redefined that meaning. In addition to care taking & providing for his wife, two sons, baby girl & elderly father, Kamau also consistently open his home to his friends’ kids & his kids’ friends. He engages in all activities at school as a volunteer, after school, provide meals, bake treats, car pool, and has rightfully earned the name “Daddy’s Daycare.” From the sleepovers to the zoo to movies, there’s no event he won’t miss and doesn’t mind organizing a kid -parent outing. He is a leader at his workplace, has returned to school for nursing, and has not missed a single event. He recently had surgery and still organized summer camp drop off, pick ups and after camp outings. Kamau found the summer camp and made sure that his friends with kids got all applications in on time and reminded everyone of fees needed to be paid. Frankly, we have come to truly rely on him and appreciate him. Both moms and dads will call him about all parent stuff because he stays updated on everything – schools, kids’ sports, kid events in city, tutoring, clothes, even cooking. He actually cooks better than most of us! One parent was fortunate to receive NO Pelican tickets, and Kamau instantly organized the outing. The kids had a blast and they loved hanging out with him. He kept 9 kids in order, made sure they behaved, made sure they ate, enjoyed the game, and were safe. Of course, other parents were there, but he’s so good with them that it’s almost like we weren’t there. The kids were concerned when the found out he was sick, and they wanted to know when he would be getting better. Kamau deserves this award because he has never asked for anything. He is constantly thinking about not only his family, but all of his friends’ kids. Truthfully, if he comes across a parent in need of help with their child, he won’t hesitate to help. He was blessed with a gift, and he shares his gift of parenting everyday. It would be great to give him gifts in return.

Luis Rodriguez

Luis Rodriguez{Nominated by :: Jai Cannon} Luis deserves this award because he honestly saved my life. Back in 2010, my mother passed away five months before I gave birth to our son. I don’t have much of a relationship with my own father, and Luis is pretty much the only person that I have. He stepped up in ways I never could have imagined in order to take care of our son and me. Luis works two jobs in order to provide for our family and so I can complete nursing school. Between both jobs, Luis works every single day of the week and never has a full day off to be alone, but he still finds time to be there for our son and family. While I am in nursing school, Luis, at times, has to be both mom and dad. He never complains and is always on top of everything. I really just want him to know how much we appreciate everything that he does. We love him so much, and I have no idea how I could ever repay him. Luis has put his masters degree on hold in order for me to complete nursing school and to support our family. With him, I know that our family will always be taken care of not only financially but also emotionally. He is the first person to say, “Jai, we got this!” whenever I have doubts. Luis is so supportive and loving, I only wish that everyone could experience having a father like him. Luis is absolutely the best NOLA dad that there is. In the fall, he makes sure to spend time watching the Saints play with our son; in the winter, he is always ready to bring our son to a parade. In the spring, he knows we can’t live without no less than 10 pounds of crawfish, and in the summer, he is full of snowball surprises from Pandora’s and makes sure to attend our son’s Carrollton boosters T-ball games. There is nothing that this man would not do or sacrifice for his family. I honestly don’t know where I would be if I did not have him in my life. Luis saved me during the lowest point in my life and has been there every step of the way since then to lift me up. He encourages me to go after my dreams no matter what, and with his help, I will finally be a senior in nursing school this August. Since day one after giving birth, our son has gravitated more towards his father. They have this bond and connection that can’t be explained and I will probably never understand. Their relationship is so solid that I sometimes jokingly tell my son that I am looking for my receipt to bring him back to Touro because I couldn’t have possibly given birth to a “daddy’s boy,” but if I grew up with a NOLA dad like Luis, I’d be a little obsessed too.

David Barnes

David  Barnes{Nominated by :: Allie Barnes} Who is the best NOLA dad? My husband!!! Let me tell you why – he managed to juggle work, law school, a home renovation, three dogs, and a mortgage all while I was pregnant! His hard work continues now that our daughter is 7 months old. He recently finished his JD from Loyola and completed his final semester in the midst of a home renovation and a newborn to provide for. He currently serves the NOLA community as a detective sergeant with NOPD, and when he comes home from work, his little girl is his escape. Her eyes light up every night when he arrives, and her smile is so big only he can be the one to bring it out of her. He often talks about domestic disputes, child abuse, and kidnapping incidents that arise at work sometimes. Each time he walks into the child and family services office, he passes by “If children could talk” posters showing babies asking to be loved and never hurt or abused. His heart breaks for children that may not be so lucky as our girl. His work is a reminder that there are babies out there just like our little one that need our help and love. In addition to his unique ability to multitask, he is also a big kid at heart. He teaches me every day never to lose the kid in me, and he truly understands that “babies don’t keep.” The dishes can wait, because our baby will not be a baby for long. I truly believe my DH deserves the prize for NOLA’s best Dad. He has been through a lot in this past year and has taken it all in stride. He needs a BREAK!

Chris Stevens

Chris Stevens{Nominated by :: Beth Templet} I would like to nominate my older brother, Chris Stevens, as a nominee for the 2015 Best Nola Dad. One year ago, on June 10, 2014, the Tuesday before Father’s Day, my brother’s wife, Nicole, the mother of his 2 young girls died suddenly in her sleep. She was only 34 years old. Since that day, as much as he struggles with the loss of Nicole, he has truly been the most loving, dedicated, and best father to both of his girls, Emma and Aubree, now ages 2 and 6. He works full-time and still makes an effort every day to be involved in all of the activities Emma & Aubree are involved in. He is now the dance dad, the dad who attends Daisy meetings, the dad who tries so hard to braid hair, the dad who goes dress shopping, the dad who helps coach softball and cabbage ball, and the list goes on and on. As much as the family offers to help, he is almost always willing to do it all by himself. We often remind him of the great job he is doing, but I feel if he’s chosen to be the 2015 Best Nola Dad, it may allow him to see just how great of a Dad he really is. I know there are many dads who probably deserve this title, including my husband, but I feel my brother deserves this more than anyone I know, especially this year. I know Emma & Aubree would be so proud of their Daddy, and I know Nicole is looking down on him everyday and sees how amazing he’s been. His Father’s Day last year was so hard on him, so I just want him to try and truly enjoy his Father’s Day this year, so I ask that you please consider Chris Stevens as the 2015 Best Nola Dad.

Ben Aronin

Ben Aronin{Nominated by :: Lacey Aronin} My husband isn’t just a dad, he’s a coach. Losing his father at a young age drove Ben to play basketball as an outlet to fill a void in his life. On the court, he could let go of his pain and anger and get a clearer sense of who he was created to be. His faith brought him to New Orleans for a year of volunteering. During that year, basketball became a tool to carve out the calling on his life – one that he continues to live out almost 10 years later. During the work day, Ben is a coach and an athletic director of a non-profit. He works tireless hours ensuring that his players get seen by colleges, that their needs are met at schools across the cities, and that they are growing up to be men and women of integrity. During the time at home, Ben is a daddy to two wonderful boys (Caleb, 4 & Elliott, 0), where he tirelessly play fights with them, changes diapers, and gives of himself. When Caleb was born, Ben secretly wished he was going to be a boy so that he could become the type of father he was always missing. He volunteered to be a stay at home dad while he coached at a local high school and volunteered at a community center, running his own basketball ministry. He would tote Caleb to practice and games strapped on him, as part of the team. Now, he coaches Caleb each week at basketball and is constantly rolling a ball with Elliott to get him accustomed to the game that brings daddy much joy. And on college breaks, Ben is the “father” figure to Shaq, a 21 year old neighborhood basketball player who Ben welcomed in our lives 4 years ago. He called and said, “Shaq needs a place to stay. He’s moving in.” He’s lived with us ever since – when he comes home from college in Mississippi. Ben mentors many kids across this city, as he has played on many courts and run many different basketball games in the neighborhoods that we have lived. From coaching them, to playing with them, to feeding them, to mentoring them, Ben is not only a role model for our own boys, but also for others – using basketball as a tool to get into their lives and really know them. Ben relentlessly gives of himself, expecting nothing in return as he coaches his actual kids, and many other kids around this city, to success – not only on the court, but in life.

Travis Eden

Travis Eden{Nominated by :: Beverly Eden} My husband is the hardest working man I know. Not only does he hold down a full time job Monday through Friday, but he is always there for our family. We have 4 kids, including 3 boys (and a 1 year old daughter) and he has never missed a single ball game or practice. He has coached soccer for our sons’ teams for years….sometimes when our son decided to quit. He continued to coach, in an attempt to teach our son the value of following through on your word and he said, he “owed it the team” to be there. And despite all of these things, he still finds time to give back to our community by being a volunteer firefighter. They say actions speak louder than words and I believe that’s true. I know my kids are learning so much just by watching their dad. I could not be more proud to call him my husband.


Elham Rabbani

image (3){Nominated by :: Shany Rashidi} We tried for three years to get pregnant. He didn’t miss one fertility appointment, not one. Then when I got pregnant, he was there every step of the way, every craving, doctors appointment; during nesting, he did everything I needed and wanted. And to watch his dream of becoming a father come true has been amazing! He wakes up with our son in the middle of the night; he reads to him and teaches him things. We’ve traveled on a plane, and he was so hands on and helpful, it blew my mind. I joke with him and say that he’s the mama bear. He is so in love with our baby boy. He’s a hard worker, and he works to be able to give his family a comfortable life. He is the secretary of our community board to ensure he is part of making a nice community for his family and the others! He is a true inspiration. I know he is my husband, but others in our circles always are quick to remind me how lucky I am, and I know it. He definitely deserves this award as I’m sure other men in this competition do. But if I could win this for him after all of our struggles, it would be such a fun surprise for him! Thank you!!!

Brian Cleveland

brian-and-amelia{Nominated by :: Ashley Cleveland} It’s early Sunday morning; while most Dads are sleeping in, or preparing for a relaxing day, my husband is called out to the scene of a murder. He is a Chaplain with the New Orleans Police Department. He is responsible for the first and fifth districts, but one week out of the month, he is on-call for the entire city. The main focus of his job is ensuring his officers are taken care of emotionally and spiritually. Occasionally, he is asked to assist with the families that show up at a crime scene. His love for New Orleans is endless; he loves serving the public daily. One of his favorite things to do is run into a tourist and tell them about the city. He is quick to recommend Brocato’s for a gelato (his favorite is Straccitella)! When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with our family. We welcomed our first daughter in November of 2014. We love to visit City Park for a stroll around the big lake and feed the ducks along the peristyles. Whether he’s playing disc golf or cheering on the Saints, Brian is the best Dad in New Orleans!

Not only will the winner be named the 2015 Best NOLA Dad, but he will also win the fabulous prize package giveaway valued over $650 including:

Fathers Day Collage

The winner will be announced on Sunday, June 14th!

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