Watch the Dad Guild Grow

Watch the Dad Guild Grow

When Keegan Albaugh became a father in 2016, he quickly turned to the internet with what he thought would be a common question: he wanted to know what kinds of programs existed for Vermont Dads. What he found, to his surprise, was an extremely sparse landscape of resources. 

The following year, when an opportunity came up to facilitate a support group for dads, Keegan jumped at the opportunity. While Keegan had a background in mental health and social work, the landscape of fatherhood was new to him – in more ways than one. 

For nine months, Keegan and seven other dads met monthly to talk about the experience of being new fathers. While most of the men who joined the group had initially participated at the request of their partners, by the end of the nine months, none were ready for the experience to end. For Keegan, this was a big learning moment about working with fathers: 

“Men and dads don’t know they need this space – they have to be pushed into it, some of them – but when they do it, it feels really good, and they want to keep it going.” 

The Dad Guild became a way to do just that. What started as an informal way for Dads to connect with one another quickly became so much more. Today, the Dad Guild serves approximately 75 dads every month and offers a multitude of programs: support groups (both in-person and virtual), playgroups, basketball nights, workshops, running and book groups. 

When describing how the Dad Guild’s programming came to be, Keegan emphasized that a lot of it was just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what stuck. As Keegan puts it, the real key is “to make sure that no dad has an excuse for not participating.” 

On top of their in-person and virtual programming, the organization also has a website, Facebook and Instagram pages, a monthly newsletter, a slack channel, a google calendar, and a closed Facebook group for dads. In Summer of 2022, they even released three episodes of a podcast called “Modern Pop.” Whether at an in-person event or at home on their couch, Dad Guild wants to meet dads wherever they are. For some dads, that might mean just sitting back and listening to others share their stories. 

Dad with newborn baby

Keegan says running Dad Guild has been a huge lesson for him in the importance of men’s mental health in the perinatal period, and over time, it’s increasingly become a focus of the organization. Not only are perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in men less known about than they are in women, men also tend to be more isolated than woman are, something which is only amplified by the ruralness of a state like Vermont. Keegan also shared that there can often be guilt among dads for taking up space, making it even more difficult for them to reach out for support. 

However, Keegan described the pandemic as creating a major cultural shift for a lot of dads: “I think the pandemic for me, it was really like this perfect storm of a lot of dads needing to lean into vulnerability a bit more. You needed support, you needed connection... [The pandemic] opened the door for honest answers about how you were doing… [and] forced more people to lean into the community.” 

Instead of being the end for Dad Guild, the pandemic pushed the organization towards its virtual options, which wound up being surprisingly popular. Keegan recalled their Wednesday weekly check-in would sometimes draw in as much as thirty dads, with folks joining from all across the state.  

While Dad Guild continues to offer virtual options for dads outside of Chittenden County to this day, Keegan does not want to stop there. Someday, Dad Guild hopes to create a statewide network, with sites all across Vermont, so that they can offer in-person and virtual options for all of Vermont’s dads.

When looking towards the future, Keegan stresses one key vision above all others: that Dad Guild will be here for the long-haul. 

Written by Cooper Siegel, March 2024

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