The majority of fathers want to be more involved. The rapid growth in fatherhood research, resources, and programs in recent years indicates an increased acceptance and understanding that responsible fathers play a vital role in their children’s development. 76% of dads surveyed in Canada said they don’t know of available supports or services available in their city/town
that help men with personal well-being and healthy relationships; nearly one-third said social/ cultural expectations about being a man would prevent them from asking for help.
Dad’s Central (DC) set out to shift that view and create opportunities for dads to feel confident in reaching out. Connecting men with other men in the context of having quality time with their children models for their children the value of relationships and community.
Through mentoring and play-based activities, DC promoted opportunities to engage dads, step-dads, uncles, grandpas or any other positive male influence in the lives of their children.
The first year of the Dad’s Central project was definitely a successful one. We started out slow as is typical of any start up project, only about two to three dads, but by September our numbers grew. The best advertising was dads telling other dads.
By September/ October those numbers increased to twelve to fifteen dads and twenty-two to twenty-five kids at the Aldersyde Field House events. November big ticket days were the two Fire Hall tours. Okotoks had twenty-six dads and thirty-eight kids. Those firefighters had their work cut out for them that day. High River had fourteen dads and seventeen kids (weather wasn’t as cooperative). The dads were just as excited as the kids on those events!
At the High River BBQ at George Lane Park, we used the Block Party trailer and the kids had a great time cheering their dads on in the Sumo Wrestling matches. One dad commented that he had just happened to hear about the event half an hour before it started. He was out with his three children and joined us. He said he was thrilled to see a program like this. He had been in the park the Sunday prior and was hoping to be able to connect and talk with other parents, but the only parents there were a few women and they did not appear comfortable with having a conversation with him.
Having a planned event like this was an excellent way to meet other parents and have fun with his kids. He was definitely coming to the next one. At the Okotoks BBQ, a Step-dad invited and brought the birth dad to the event so that the three of them could enjoy some time together in a relaxed place, with opportunities to engage with other dads and their kids.
We have heard repeatedly that dads don’t feel like they have a place to go with their kids and connect with other dads. Thanks to Dad’s Central, they feel like they have a safe, welcoming and relaxed place to go to connect and share experiences with their children. Dad’s Central has had over one hundred dads or male caregivers involved in the past year. The numbers and interest continue to grow, and we are looking forward to growing this program in the years to come.
A special shout out to Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson. When he attended the Aldersyde Field House events with his sons and grandsons, we had three generations of positive male role modeling going on, and Grampa Bill leading the parachute activity. The Mayor has been highly instrumental in getting the word out and promoting Dad’s Central.
Comments from the dads: “I am working all the time, so coming here and just having fun with my daughter and seeing her big smile is wonderful”; “It’s great to be able to come to a place to meet other parents. It’s hard for a dad to get out to meet other dads in the community”; “Love seeing my kids have so much fun. Love being part of this”; “Super excited to be attending and having fun with my kids.”
Thank you FCSS for joining us and making it possible to build our community capacity to spread the message that fathers are more than a nice, supportive add-on to the family system mostly managed by mothers. Fathers matter. Dads and all other positive males bring a special way of nurturing and bonding that must be encouraged and affirmed for the benefit of the children.