Friends of a NYC Dads Group co-organizer are rallying to help defray costs for his recovery from a severe injury.
James Lopez, 42, who coordinates events on Staten Island, underwent successful brain surgery in April for a non-cancerous growth, according to his wife, Kim. While recovering later in the month, Lopez fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) to his thalamus, she told SILive.com. He has been in a coma since.
The thalamus is thought to act as a relay station between most incoming sensory and motor information to the brain’s cerebral cortex, or gray matter. It may also play a role in sleep, consciousness, alertness, learning and memory.
The father of three boys, ages 5 to 15, “will need intensive rehab and medical treatment which will be costly even with insurance,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page she set up. “This is not the reason or method that James would have ever chosen to raise funds but this is what is needed at this time.”
This week Lopez is scheduled to be transferred from a Staten Island hospital to a rehab facility in Manhattan, SILive.com reported.
“My dear friend, James Lopez, was the first person to open his heart to me in the fatherhood community,” wrote Sergio Rosario Diaz, founder of Soy Super Papá, an online community for Spanish speaking dads. “Always proud of his Puertorrican heritage, he made me feel at home everywhere we went. His perspective on fatherhood made me realize that it’s the simple things in life that matter.”
Lopez joined NYC Dads Group in 2015. He soon started organizing popular father/child events, such as crafts workshops at Home Depot and hip-hop graffiti tagging art lessons. He became a group co-organizer in 2018.
“James is one of City Dads Group’s biggest cheerleaders,” said Matt Schneider, co-founder of the organization. “He continues to be a source of wisdom, inspiration and friendship, not only for me, but for our group organizers all over the country.”
One of Lopez’s key messages in his work is “presence over presents,” a motto he often hashtagged. He attributed this philosophy of dads being actively involved with their children’s lives beyond being a provider to how his father raised him in the South Bronx.
“My dad spoiled me rotten. … But the one thing he gave me the most, which I didn’t appreciate until I was older, was his time,” he wrote in an article published on the NYC Dads blog in 2017. “His presence made a huge difference in my life. The toys, the gifts, all that, were just a quick fix. A gift loses value over time … If we are going to raise the bar every time then it has to be through our experiences and time together.”
‘One of the most passionate dads I know’
Colleagues in the fatherhood advocacy community quickly offered support and praise for Lopez, his message, his passion and his generosity.
“James Lopez has a larger-than-life smile, huge heart and magnetic personality. He’s one of the most passionate dads I know,” said City Dads Group co-founder Lance Somerfeld. “Beyond his contributions to City Dads Group and our fatherhood circles, James is a friend. He’s the man that’s always there for a bro hug, favor, or straight talk.”
Danny Reyes, creator of the SwaggerDad men’s parenting resource, first meet Lopez about nine years ago at a NYC Dads Group event. They “clicked right away,” he wrote.
“Once you get to know James he will take his shirt off his back to give it to someone who needs it. James is all about business but he takes pride in being a great father, that’s what brought us together, our passion for being great dads,” Reyes wrote.
RGV Dads founder Jesus T. Pena wrote Lopez’s work, among the first fatherhood resources he found online years ago, inspired him to start his Rio Grande Valley, Texas, group.
“I consider James to be a trailblazer in the dad community and a friend,” Pena wrote. “I related with James because he looks like me and has a similar taste in music!”
Mike Dorsey, creator of the Black Fathers, NOW! podcast, wrote, “James has always prioritized his presence in the life of his family and set an example for all of us to follow. At this moment, I always want James to realize that he is actually also a ‘present’ for us fathers, too.”
Doug French, co-founder of Dad 2.0, wrote Lopez’s tenacity will help see him through his recovery.
“James is one of the most dynamic and focused people I know. He knows what he wants and works hard for it, and he’ll work harder than ever through this,” he said. “If history is any judge, he’ll turn his TBI into telekinesis before he’s done.”