Amazing Dad: Darryl Gibbs
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Darryl's Family: Engaged to be married; Kids: Vanessa, 18, Danielle, 15, Cynthia, forever 8 months
Darryl Lives In: Yonkers, New York
Why Darryl Is Amazing: For Darryl Gibbs, November 17, 2000, started as many days had started before, but by 6:59 p.m., his 8-month-old daughter, Cynthia, was dead.
Darryl's wife, Barbara, went to pick up their daughter from day care. When she arrived, Cynthia was still. The injured infant simply slumped in her mother's arms. Barbara immediately rushed the baby to the hospital, but emergency room staff were unable to bring her back, Darryl says. Cynthia had died at the hands of her New York State certified child care provider, a family friend who had five children of her own.
Cynthia's autopsy indicated she died from massive brain damage, the result of shaken baby syndrome (SBS). A criminal trial ensued and Darryl discovered the details of SBS. He'd never realized that you could kill a child by shaking.
"People don't know that you can," Darryl tells ParentDish. "It can be prevented -- 100 percent -- when people know how to cope with that one thing that babies do: Crying. [Caregivers] have to learn not to take it personal. When they do, bad things happen to children."
In their grief, Darryl and Barbara founded in 2001 The Cynthia Gibbs Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on the prevention of child abuse.
"It means that Cynthia lives on in every child that I've worked to protect," Darryl says. "A small piece of her is in every child."
In early 2002, the day care provider was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
"People need to know that this is real and it can happen quick, within seconds," he says. After Cynthia's death, Darryl learned that the New York State day care provider certification didn't include a lesson on SBS.
"That was the first thing I had done here in New York in 2003," Darryl says.
Undaunted, Darryl worked to pass a New York State law that requires child care providers to receive training about the dangers of SBS. At the same time, Darryl's experience of Cynthia's murder trial opened his eyes to the criminal justice system and, in 2003, he became a victims' advocate for the Westchester County District Attorney's Office in the Victims' Justice Center.
In 2004, he focused on New York State hospitals and birthing centers, where new parents can be educated by watching a video on the dangers of SBS. In 2006, "Cynthia's Law" was passed. One of its components is a public-education campaign. Another piece of the law increased criminal penalties, allowing New York to join 14 other states in recognizing SBS as a felony assault.
Darryl has taken the SBS cause to the United States Congress for legislation that will focus on prevention, awareness and education. The legislation is sponsored by U.S. Representative Nita Lowey and U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd.
The advocate dad, who'd named Cynthia after his own departed mom, has been inspired by everything that was taken away from his baby. SBS, Darryl says, not only shakes kids to death, but it shakes the remaining family members to its core. In fact, Darryl and Barbara's marriage ended in divorce, which he attributes to repercussions from Cynthia's death and the trial that followed.
"This could happen to any child under the wrong circumstances," he says. "I'll never know how many lives have been saved, but I know that I'm saving them. There is nothing more precious," Darryl says, noting that his daughter would've been 10 years old this year.
Darryl's College Roommate Carl Pitt Says: "Darryl took a hard situation and turned it into something really good. That speaks to his character that he has helped so many families. He lost a life that was very precious and he is saving so many."
Recognition: Yonkers Portrait of Courage, 2010; One of Essence Magazine's "Do Right Men," 2008, "Heroes Among Us," People Magazine, 2008; Excellence in Parenting Award from the Hudson Valley Parents' Day Council, 2008; recipient of the "Ambassador for Peace" award from the International Federation for World Peace; "Key to the City," Yonkers, 2007 and multiple proclamations, resolutions and citations from New York State legislators recognizing his work and The Cynthia Gibbs Foundation.
Darryl's Guilty Pleasure: While Darryl enjoys reading, writing and Yankee games, he's a movie buff who loves comedies and will sometimes splurge on buying ice cream.
Darryl's Best Advice: "There is not enough love in the world. Love is a word I've been whispering in my daughters' ears since they were infants. I love you but I want you to grow and to inspire people and love and help. I tell them to give ... We have to give back."
Related: Amazing Dad: Dick Hoyt
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