• By Bruce Dunbridge
  • June 08, 2017

Club strengthens bonds among dads and youth

All Pro Dad is a program founded in 1997 in Tampa, Fla., with the support of Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Super Bowl XLI champion Indianapolis Colts. Affiliated with Family First, a national nonprofit educational and charitable organization, it is designed to promote the active involvement of fathers in the lives of their young children. Focusing on elementary and middle schools, All Pro Dad features a breakfast one day a month when dads have an opportunity to spend quality time with their child. Locally, there are four chapters in Huntersville, seven in Mooresville and eight in Lincoln County. Local activist Chris Rhyne, president of the Lincoln County Public Education Foundation and a Community in Schools volunteer, is also team captain for the Kiser Intermediate and Lincolnton Middle School programs. “It’s my passion,” Rhyne said. “I want to do what I can to make a positive impact on children and families in our community. “My favorite part of the breakfast program is when we go around the room and ask each of the dads to stand up, introduce his child and say something about the child that he is proud of for that month.” Each month, the club discusses a new topic, such as quality time, teamwork, connecting with kids using technology, working hard and so on. “There is also time for discussion, with sample questions for dads and kids to ask each other, designed to create meaningful conversation,” Rhyne said. “If we are listening to our kids, they reveal things that they value most and that are important to them in life.” At the end of the breakfast sessions in Lincolnton, door prizes are given away, including certificates for lunch with the mayor, the chief of police, the superintendent of schools and the fire chief and several firefighters. “The dads walk their kids to class after each breakfast, and it’s neat to watch all the men walking through the hallway, connecting with their children and shaking hands with the teachers,” Rhyne said. The All Pro Dad program in Lincoln County Schools began several years ago with a meeting between Rhyne and Lincoln County Schools superintendent Dr. Sherry Hoyle. “All Pro Dad can provide an opportunity to promote and celebrate the family and students’ good character in a setting that is uplifting and encouraging,” Hoyle said. “We know how vital it is for home and school to partner to provide the best learning opportunities, and All Pro Dad is another way for those connections to be made.” With that idea in mind, the decision was made to create a pilot program at S. Ray Lowder Elementary School. “The success of All Pro Dad that first year was beyond our expectations,” Rhyne said. “The ‘dad’ traffic in the school increased, and there was much positive feedback from dads and kids about the impact. When questioned, most of the kids mentioned spending time with their dads, talking with their dads over breakfast or hearing their dads say something positive about them.” Six years after the initial pilot program, nine elementary schools and one middle school are now participating in Lincoln County, with a second middle school, West Lincoln Middle, starting a program next year. Speaking about the results at these schools, Hoyle said, “I never cease to be amazed at the positive comments and energy that surround All Pro Dad meetings. Consistently, fathers have shared with me how special it is to spend that time with their child and to have the opportunity to highlight their child’s accomplishments, while allowing children to see their fathers in a setting where passion, discipline, commitment and work ethic are embraced.” Other aspects of the program at various schools have been noteworthy as well. “It’s been neat to see teachers get involved,” Rhyne said. “At Kiser Intermediate, many of the teachers come to school early and volunteer to greet, hand out raffle tickets, serve breakfast and so on. “At Lincolnton Middle School, there are several teachers who bring students to the program whose dads are not available to attend with them, and there are plenty of moms involved already.” Although the focus is on dads, other relatives, such as grandparents, are welcome to attend as well. Chapters are run by a team captain, such as a dad, teacher or counselor, but chapters can be started and run by a mom, although a father who is attending will often then step up to be a team captain. In addition to the 98 chapters in North Carolina schools, other chapters have begun in 48 states and nine countries. To start a chapter of All Pro Dad Talk to a school administrator to get approval, register and pay the $50 annual fee, set up an online profile, get a breakfast partner and get the word out.