Several years ago Dr. Eric Mansfield left the Army and started his private ENT practice in Fayetteville. Mansfield and his then partner, Dr. Edward Dickerson, agreed that they needed to give something back to the community. They were committed to the idea to offer a hand to others — and that commitment was the impetus for the start of the Fathers Foundation.
    The foundation, formed three years ago, offers scholarships to those who otherwise might not have the opportunity to continue their education. Since its inception, the foundation has helped a number of individuals — individuals like a high school student whose parents — one who was in prison, the other who was on crack — attend school. That young man was living in an apartment, taking care of his siblings and working a job. His drive and determination to succeed are what the foundation is all about.{mosimage}
    “None of us make it on our own,” said Mansfield. “We’ve all gotten a hand from someone. Fayetteville has been so kind and generous to myself and my family, so I feel obligated to help someone else.”
    During the first year of the foundation’s existence, the board awarded $10,000 in scholarships. This year, the third year, $30,000 will be given away. The scholarships are for all four years of a student’s education. Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average to maintain their scholarship. But it isn’t just about giving money. During the school year Mansfield stays in contact with the students to encourage them, to let them know they aren’t in it alone. “We try to develop a relationship with them, so they know someone is rooting for them,” said Mansfield.
    He explained that the scholarships are awarded to people who have a compelling need and a compelling desire to succeed. “If a person has a 4.1 GPA, a strong family support system and scholarships out the wazoo, they will never get our scholarship,” said Mansfield. “We look at people who have financial difficulties. We look at their grades, other circumstances and a personal interview. We look at those compelling stories.”
    In addition to funding those scholarships, the Fathers Foundation also strives to bring a unique entertainment to the community at least once a year. This year the foundation is proud to present “Ballet Identity — Celebrating Individuality through Dance” on Oct. 10 and 11 at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
Mansfield is excited about the ballet because it features a “homegrown” talent,” Monica Stephenson. “This is a local girl who has done well,” he said. “She attended the local dance schools — schools where people are told they’ll never make it. But she did. She has one of those compelling stories you never hear about. And she wants to come back and find more exceptional people and help them do well.”
    Stephenson, the daughter of local physician Dr. Shelby Stephenson and Alice Stephenson, has performed with the Los Angeles Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Washington Ballet, Ballet Black in London, Ballet New York and the Pennsylvania Ballet. She received her training from the Houston Ballet Academy and the North Carolina School of the Arts. She will be joined by a number of other talented dancers, many of whom she met at the N.C. School of the Arts.
    Tickets for the VIP reception and performance on Friday, Oct. 10, are $50. Tickets for the show only on Saturday are $25. Group discounts are available for the show on Saturday, Oct.11. For ticket information, please visit w or call (910) 574-8029.

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