Bryan Thouvenel is looking forward to making memories on Kauai with his daughter.
“It’s about building a lasting memory,” the Oregon man said. “When I got her back, I was Daddy the stranger, and all she remembered about me was that I played the guitar.”
His daughter, Harmony Rain, was 2 when her mother packed her up and left. Thouvenel recalls returning to an empty home in 2012.
“There was a pink slip with an eviction notice on the door, and the house was empty — that’s when I knew they left,” he said.
Two years later, he found them in Spokane, Wash., at a Salvation Army homeless shelter.
The father and daughter were reunited and Thouvenel was able to get full custody of Harmony Rain in June 2014.
His favorite place to take her was the community pool.
“We took swimming lessons together,” he said. “I wanted to do things that would build trust, so I figured swimming was one of the best things to do; she would have to trust me to keep her above water.”
The two, who live in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, have the chance to travel to Kauai for a fresh start.
The trip is funded by Time to Put Kids First, a nonprofit that tries to reconnect parents and children after a separation or divorce.
“In society today, it’s not the norm to have share and co-parenting,” said James Childs, president and executive director of TPKF. “We live in a society where people take their personal feelings between exes, and they use that as a guiding principle about how they handle children’s relationship with their ex, and we want to change that.
The organization, which began in 2014, provides parents with the support they need through social media and rallies. But they are trying to expand to give parents and children bonding trips and activities.
Thouvenel and his daughter are the first group to be sent on vacation to reconnect with one another, said Darcy Lagana, TPKF board member.
Lagana knows what it’s like to be separated from a child.
“I was separated from my son for seven years. When we reunited, I realized the best thing we could do for our relationship was create new memories,” she said. “Those moments are what we have to hold on to.”
She wanted to use her experience to help other families suffering from separation.
Thouvenel’s trip has been in the works since December. He and Harmony Rain will land on Kauai in May.
The organization chose Kauai because they believed it would be the best place to fit Thouvenel and Harmony’s needs, Lagana said.
Harmony, now 5, is excited to go to the beach, Thouvenel said.
“We had great times before she was taken from me, but she doesn’t remember them,” he said. “I want to make a huge memory she can look back on and say, ‘Dad and I did this.’”