The Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House in Fayetteville recently hosted a fundraiser for North Fayette Elementary's Watch D.O.G.S. program. Now in its second year and growing, the Watch D.O.G.S. are a group of dads (of great students, to complete the acronym) that sign up to come out to the school periodically and spend a day interacting with kids, dishing out high fives, and helping teachers.
"Our Chick-fil-A night was a complete success!" says North Fayette Elementary Parent Liaison Sandra Forero. She said at least one student was there representing each of the 26 classroom teachers, 30 Watch D.O.G.S. attended, and over 65 families visited in the course of the night.
"The overall goal was to encourage participation both at home and school from all parents, especially the dads, to show our community what a dedicated group of dads we have at NFE and bring awareness to our program and school (and let everyone know how awesome we are!)" said Forero. "It will also help encourage more dads to participate in the program, and in the process raise some money to keep the program going."
One W.D. (that's an acronym for an acronym) just started with the program this year and said, had he known about it, he would have been on board last year.
"Last year at a PTA meeting I saw they had the overhead projections with the dads smiling with their kids and I was like 'man I want to be involved with that, what happened?' I was real envious of those dads," said Tony Belcher.
Belcher is the father of two children at North Fayette: Mariah in third grade and Daniel in fifth. Both are adopted blood siblings.
"I think for dads, you kind of want to compete. You want to say I'm just as good of a dad as that guy is," Belcher said. "More importantly, I think it helps for kids to see men in the school. There's probably five guys [working] in the whole elementary school. I think for them to see guys and hear kids say 'that's so an so's dad,' it helps out."
Particularly at the elementary schools, which were stripped of most parapros in the recent austerity cuts, teachers could use a hand.
"This is the first year without parapros in the first grade," said Forero, "so this is especially helpful now. They play a vital part in picking up the slack. We appreciate them because they're making an effort to be here, sometimes taking a day off or using one of their sick days."
The dads not only help pick up the slack in the classroom, but they also get to have a little fun with the kids. Forero enjoys seeing the dads give high fives or appear on the morning school broadcast with their child.
Belcher feels just having someone there to give a kid extra attention is helpful for them.
"I think just for the kids to have somebody there pulling for them (is good)," he said. "Even the little things, a kid reads a whole paragraph. It may not seem like a big deal but if that's your first time, I think it's great to have a little celebration. I think the kids really respond."
Belcher also said being there working with the students gives him a chance to see all the talented young kids achieving at North Fayette.
"If you're working everyday, you don't see kids. You might end up just hearing about bad things they're doing, but I've seen kids at North Fayette doing some phenomenal things, art work, poetry, orchestra. Doing things I can't do now at my age."
The program, one of 3,156 in 46 states, has grown now from about 40 dads to around 50, Forero said, and she hopes to see it grow more.
For more information about the Watch D.O.G.S. program you can visit the website for the National Center For Fathering at www.fathers.com.