CoolxDad reflects on a year of impact & evolution in 2023

By Kevin Barnett

CoolxDad reflects on a year of impact & evolution in 2023

CoolxDad’s fourth year was one for the books. 

We were all over the map, expanding our programming into New York, hosting a Knights Table event in New Orleans, and partnering with Soho Works for a panel discussion in LA. But we still made an impact in our home city of Houston – launching new Sunday Supper and CoolxRuns programs in the city and partnering with meaningful local orgs like Workshop Houston, SEARCH Homeless Services, the Houston Dynamo, H-E-B’s equality program, and the Texans Care foundation.

Thanks to the support and impact of our community, we were even recognized this year with an official proclamation from the Mayor’s Office of Houston. That’s an honor for the whole CoolxDad family. 

We’re looking forward to continuing to grow and evolve in 2024. You can support our vision of a CoolxDad HQ by making a final year-end donation to Healing House.

Let’s get right into it.

In 2023, we…

Launched new programs & initiatives


Part of CoolxDad’s mission is to encourage dads to thrive beyond their financial or career success by offering holistic mental and physical wellness practices and bringing dads together to engage with them. 

That’s why we launched CoolxRuns this year, a wellness initiative that brings fathers together to improve their physical and mental health and focus on their holistic well-being. 

With 80 members in its first year, CoolxRuns has regular programming in Houston, and – thanks to our brand new partnership with the Police Athletic League –  now also offers pickup games in New York City. About 50 people RSVP’d for the first iteration of CoolxRuns in Harlem.

The RunxClub is a wellness program under the umbrella of CoolxRuns – an open-invite weekly run led by CoolxDad members. In 2023, 15 runners showed up at the starting line on Saturday mornings in Houston.


We got a lot of foodies in the CoolxDad fam. The table got bigger this year with the creation of Sunday Suppers, community food demos and fellowship dinners in collaboration with CoolxDad family members and the talented chefs in our network.

Interested dads can learn not just how to put food on the table, but how to make it taste good, too. These dinners also provide fellowship opportunities for fathers from all walks of life, as we sit down to enjoy the meal we’ve made together. Dads take home recipes and ingredients to prepare the meal again for their families. 

About 10 people showed up for the first Sunday Supper Sept. 10 at Little Red Box Grocery, led by CoolxDad and chef Andre Nieves. 

Chef Nieves presents to a small audience inside a grocery store


We know CoolxDads have wisdom to share about parenting, partnerships, career success, and more. We also know how precious our network’s time is. That’s why we launched the social media series CoolxTips in 2023, where CoolxDads share something they’ve learned about life and parenting every Wednesday at 8 p.m. on our Instagram

Made CoolxHistory in NYC

CoolxHistory represents CoolxDad’s slate of programming and events during Black History Month in February, where we celebrate undersung Black pioneers.

This year, in partnership with Lobos 1707, we hosted a CoolxHistory Knights Table dinner at the Lobos Den in New York City’s Lower East Side. 

Celebrated Women’s Month with CoolxMoms

CoolxDad owes the world to the CoolxMoms in our community. We celebrate their compassion, depth, business savvy, artistry, and intelligence and we strive to be the partners they deserve. Quite simple, the women in the CoolxDad community hold it down. 

This year, we got the chance to bring four CoolxMoms together to talk about their careers and lives over a Mother’s Day brunch. Thanks to Janice Bond, Lacee Jacobs-Barnett, Terri Hamm, and Danielle Fanfair for their participation and insight. 

Watch the full conversation.

Four Black women cheers their champagne glasses at a table set with charcuterie

Grew together in the CoolxGarden

This summer, we got a plot in the Sunnyside Park Community Garden, which CoolxDads and their families cultivated together on Saturdays. 

The CoolxGarden meets CoolxDad’s vision because it encourages fathers to be role models for their children in real-time by exhibiting the importance of participating in community. The garden also brings families together for a day of learning, fun, and service.

It was a tough year for gardening. But we learned a lot from this initiative, and have plans to make the garden even more fruitful next spring. 

A father and his daughter work in the garden, both bent over the soil and examining a plant


Spread the CoolxDad message


It was a summer full of education and awareness for CoolxDad, as we hosted, or were invited to participate, in several panel discussions this year – all of which presented opportunities for us to change the narrative when it comes to modern fatherhood.

In June, we hosted a CoolxDads in Tech panel with Microsoft at the Ion, featuring Terry Smith, Roderick Haynes, and Jelani Cowen and moderated by CoolxDad Founder and Director Kevin Barnett. 

In August, as part of our ongoing friendship with the Houston Dynamo, we hosted a panel with players, followed by a free stadium tour before the game – all free for CoolxDads.  

In September, Kevin was invited to be part of the Vernon Maxwell Initiative’s Mental Health Symposium, where he spoke about the importance of men – particularly men of color – focusing on their mental health, and being provided the space to do so. 

Also in September, we hosted a panel called The Entrepreneurial Dad at Soho Works in Los Angeles, representing our first partnership with the space. The panelists were Teo Hunter, co-founder and CEO of Crowns & Hops; Peter Benedicto, managing partner at Strictly Business Agency; Bobby Joseph, creative director/partner at Yo, B!; and Black D, head of product at Monogram. They talked about prescient topics such as: How do we make the most of our time with our kids - being present, engaged, and active fathers - while also pursuing business and career moves? 

“To me, CoolxDad means doing the work as a father regardless of challenges, obstacles, and generational perceptions of what it means to be a Black man and father,” said Hunter. “Reinforcing core fundamentals and practices in being a good human being above all is our responsibility in helping our children navigate the world.”

Read our recap of the Entrepreneurial Dad.


CoolxDad CEO and Director Kevin Barnett was honored to participate in radio interviews this year, on 97.9 The Box and 102.5 the Amanda Sapp Show.

With Amanda, Kevin talked about the importance of women and mothers in the CoolxDad community: 

“As a child, I grew up in a single-family household. I gotta give respect to my mom,” Kevin said. “That x [in CoolxDad] really symbolizes that we are an all-encompassing organization.”


CoolxDad received a few press mentions this year. Here are some of the highlights:

Hosted a father-child basketball tournament & skills clinic with SLAM

Basically, in 2023, we balled. 

CoolxDads and their families got together June 11 at the Murray Playground in Queens, NYC for a day of fellowship and friendly competition, before heading over the SLAM headquarters for food, socializing, free photo shoots, and a few gifts. 


“This year we thought it would be good to have a really tangible touchpoint where dads could be with their kids outside playing basketball and get some exposure to SLAM and just spend time together and celebrate fatherhood in a more experiential way, beyond content,” said SLAM CEO Les Green.

Read our full interview with SLAM CEO Les Green. 

Celebrated fatherhood in June

June was once again a month full of father-focused events for CoolxDad. We hosted the fourth annual Born a Star Festival June 17 at Mo’ Better Brews in Houston. This free, family -friendly event featured performances by The Biggest Brandon, Keith Jacobs, Sia Amun, and DJ Elevated.

Huge thanks to our sponsors H-E-B, Houston Rockets, University of Houston, C.L.O.U.D., and Mo’ Better Brews for making it possible.

Relive the day with our video recap

We also had another opportunity to partner with the Houston Rockets to celebrate Father’s Day this year. Kevin spent the day with equipment manager Tony Nila, whose dad Dominic “Chip” Nila, also worked for the Rockets for 42 years, and who left behind the kind of legacy we all aspire to.

“My friends say it all the time, ‘’I learned this from your dad,’” Tony told CoolxDad. “He touched so many lives.” 

Focused on financial wellness

As part of our ongoing Dollars & Sense financial wellness program, we hosted a free five-week workshop with Wellby Financial focused on business and accounting strategy for entrepreneurs. 

Repped CoolxDad in style

CoolxKids represent generational legacy. In collaboration with the ever-fashionable CoolxDad O’Shea Woodhouse, we dropped a new collection this year to honor the kids who make us what we are.

Buy a T-shirt here.


We also partnered with Puma this year to hook up the kids at Workshop Houston with dope new sneakers. Workshop Houston hosts free creative programming for kids in Third Ward, and is a meaningful community partner for CoolxDad that we look forward to doing more with in 2024. 

Kept Fridays cool

CoolxFridays engages the musicians in the CoolxDad network, inviting them to curate playlists that drop on Fridays or DJ events in partnership with CoolxDad Family members. 

On April 17, we hosted an in-person CoolxFriday event at Mo’ Better Brews, featuring food and drink specials, live music, and a hot topic talk on the entrepreneurial dad.

Gathered at the Knights Table

It’s a meeting of the minds every time CoolxDads sit down at the Knights Table. And this year, we got to do it more than ever before – in more cities than ever before. Here are two highlight Knights Tables: 

In July, we partnered with LVMH, Hennessy, and Amazon to host a CoolxDad VIP cocktail hour before the Essence Fest All Access Summer Trailblazer Awards Dinner in New Orleans. Then we headed into the dinner and watched Swin Cash, Misa Hylton, and Marc Morial get their flowers.

In December, to cap off the year, 15 dads showed up for Knights Table ATL, the first dinner in the Big A, sponsored by D’usse. 

A group of Black men smiling and hugging at the Knights Table dinner in Atlanta

Sent the kids back to school with the Texans

Every year we aim to send kids back to school knowing that their community is behind them and rooting for their success. 

This year, along with our annual participation in the Million Father March, we brought Texans players Maliek Collins and Jerry Hughes Jr. out to Blackshear Elementary in Third Ward for free portraits and skills games with the kids.

A girl with braids and throwing up a peace sign poses for a photo between two Texans players in their jerseys.

Celebrated Halloween with Checkers & Slim Thug

On Oct. 28, we joined the rapper and friends at Checkers for a family-friendly party and the unveiling of a Big Slim limited-edition meal, with a percentage of the proceeds supporting CoolxDad.

Gave 500 gifts to kids in need

For the fourth year in a row, CoolxDad hosted its cornerstone holiday initiative Color Box, raising 500 gifts for kids in Houston and taking free holiday portraits for families. 

This year, we partnered with SEARCH Homeless Services for the gift drive, hand-wrapping and delivering gifts for kids who are homeless or experiencing housing instability. It’s the community support that makes Color Box successful every year. This year, eight local businesses hosted donation boxes for the gift drive and about 40 volunteers showed up to our gift-wrapping event in Downtown Houston. A huge thanks to sponsors H-E-B, the Houston Dynamo, and Houston Dash for their support in putting a smile on the faces of kids in Houston.

Our portrait session this year at Sanman Studios was an ode to 50 years of hip-hop, with photography by CoolxDad Fred Agho. About 50 people showed up throughout the day Dec. 3. Thanks to sponsor Cricket Wireless.

A woman and a man sift through piles of gifts for kids. The man holds up a Monopoly box to the camera.

Made December officially COOLXDAD MONTH

December, 2023 goes down in Houston history as CoolxDad Month. Just before the year’s end, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a proclamation to CoolxDad recognizing our Celebration of Fatherhood, “a cherished annual tribute to fathers.” 

“This month-long initiative stands as a testament to the importance of fathers in our lives, acknowledging their pivotal role in shaping families and communities while strengthening family bonds,” the proclamation reads. “The City of Houston commends the CoolxDad initiative and applauds their hard work to encourage and promote the support of outstanding fathers.” 

“It means a lot to know that we have the city behind us as we continue to pursue meaningful ways to bring dads together in service to their communities. The proclamation says it all: Celebration of Fatherhood is not confined to the walls of a home – it’s about making sure we embody our values as men and role models in and out of the house and that we show up for the next generation of children, our communities, and our best selves,” said Kevin.

Read the full proclamation here.


“It means a lot to know that we have the city behind us as we continue to pursue meaningful ways to bring dads together in service to their communities." 

Secured a space for the future of CoolxDad

We have the space for CoolxDad HQ, aka Healing House—a multi-functional space for healing practices, meetings, events, and programming—now we just need the funds to finish construction.

What we envision is a physical location of our very own, where we can host Sunday Suppers, Knights Tables, Color Box holiday portrait sessions and gift-wrapping parties, yoga and breathwork classes, mental health and financial wellness classes, and more. This is a true community gathering spot, for CoolxDads, by CoolxDads.

Donate to the vision for 2024 and help us make Healing House a reality.

Kevin Barnett holds the Mayoral Proclamation on the steps of City Hall