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South Valley Journal

If you give a dad a donut…it will benefit his kids

Sep 04, 2022 11:10AM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

If you give a dad a donut, he’ll probably make time to eat it with his kids at their school, and if he spends time at their school, he will understand more about his kids, and his kids will understand how their dad feels about them and about their education. When fathers are involved in their child’s school, it has a domino effect.

“There are numerous statistics on how society is bettered when men are involved in the community and at home, because both tie in together and dramatically increase students’ test scores, and dramatically lower truancy levels,” said David Pack, who has been actively involved in his children’s schools’ PTA organizations.

  Many elementary school PTA boards plan activities specifically to encourage fathers to be involved at their child’s school. Dads & Donuts, Parents & Pastries and Books & Breakfast events invite fathers to eat a treat and spend time with their child at school, where they can meet their children’s friends and teachers.

Riverside Elementary in West Jordan began hosting Dads Make a Difference Lunches a few years ago when the PTA board was looking for ways to include dads, who usually can’t volunteer during the day.

“We just felt like dads don’t have too many opportunities to feel included in PTA and the school,” PTA member Charlene Tello said.

Dads come to the school during their child’s lunch time. They eat lunch with their child and then play with them during recess.

“We have a great turnout—it's almost a little overwhelming for the front office, which is a good thing, which is what we want,” Riverside Elementary Principal Dr. Mike Trimmell said.

The lunches are scheduled months in advance to allow dads to schedule time off work. The next Dads Make a Difference Lunch is scheduled for Nov. 10.

Both kids and dads look forward to the lunches and many dads bring restaurant takeout meals to make it even more special.

John Lummus, who attended both lunches last year with his daughter, said that even though it might be difficult for dads to make arrangements to attend, it is worth the effort to make their child feel special.

“Dads can find the time,” Lummus said. “They just need to make sure they prioritize.”

Antonio Istanez said attending the lunches sends a message to his young daughter.

“For me, my child is first and I want her to know that and to see that I can take my time to share a meal and sit with her,” he said.

The kids are thrilled to have their dads come, so Preston Dahlgren makes sure he attends every time.

“It's important to them, and anything that’s important to them is going to be a priority for me,” Dahlgren said.

Anthony Condas has made many great memories at the lunches with his children over the years and has realized what an impact it has on them.

“One time I was running a little late and my son was bawling because I wasn't here,” he said. “So I know it means a lot to him, even though it doesn't seem like it's that much, but it does, it means a lot to be there.”

Dads Make a Difference

Supporting school activities is just one way dads are making a difference in their child’s lives. Men also make a difference by volunteering in the PTA.

Pack has served as either president or president elect at his children’s elementary, middle and high schools for the past 15 years straight. He is currently the PTSA president at Copper Hills High School.

“I just want to help out, give back, be informed and let my children see that I care about their success,” he said. “Hopefully, they will remember what it was like when their dad cared enough to invest in their education, not only at home but in the community.”

Pack has often been the only man at PTA/PTSA meetings and events. He said there is a misconception that meetings must be held during the day, when many are at work, but he said it doesn’t have to be that way.

“There are opportunities to be able to tailor-make an individualized volunteer opportunity for people that work,” Pack said. “They can do things at night, it doesn't necessarily need to be at the school during school hours.”

Even as a single dad, Pack has been able to prioritize time to volunteer in his three children’s schools (while also serving on West Jordan’s City Council and Planning Commission, several nonprofit boards, and also teaching college courses and coaching the CHHS tennis team.)

He said another barrier that keeps men from being involved in the PTA is that they often feel that because the moms are already doing it, they aren’t needed and their help wouldn’t make much of a difference.

CHHS PTSA board member Andrea Hansen said the dynamic fathers bring to school events is needed and appreciated. She said the majority of parent volunteers for the end-of-the-year all-night senior party are fathers and they make sure everyone has a fun and safe time.

“That's been really a good thing for kids to see their dads supporting them,” Hansen said. “I think it's really important for the kids to know that their dad cares about them and wants to be involved, and cares how they do in school and what's going on at their school.”

Hansen has worked with only a few men on PTA/PTSA boards over the years. She said they bring a different perspective to discussions and tend to serve in positions in which they have experience, such as community relations or finance.

It took some time for Todd Hougaard to find a PTA position that fit his skills and interests. He first volunteered to help at a Mother and Sons activity so the PTA moms could enjoy the event with their sons. Then he served as PTA president at Jordan Ridge Elementary in South Jordan.

“I think a lot of men don't think there's a position that they feel comfortable in, but they can find something that works,” Hougaard said. “I don't really like the day-to-day organization of being president, but I saw the Student Leadership Committee and said, ‘Hey, that's where I want to be, I want to be with the kids’ and so that's where I've been ever since.”

Hougaard is now one of three men on the State PTA Board. He is the Student Leader Commissioner, responsible for events such as the State Battle of the Bands competition, PTSA Day at the Capitol and the Student Leadership Conference.

The State Board has a Male Engagement Committee to help local boards in their efforts to recruit more fathers.

Dads on Patrol

Having more men at schools during school hours makes many kids and parents feel safer. Some elementary schools utilize volunteer dads through the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program. Dads, grandfathers and other father-figures sign up to help at the school for one day. They provide extra security by patrolling the school grounds and extra fun by helping in their child’s classroom. The program website claims the program enhances campus safety, reduces bullying and provides positive male role models for kids.

Most of the local Watch D.O.G.S. programs have fizzled out in the last few years because of COVID-19 restrictions on classroom volunteers. Falcon Ridge Elementary in West Jordan was down to only two volunteer dads last year, but the administration plans to reintroduce the program this year and get more dads back into the school.