150 fathers promise to lend new Snohomish school a hand

SNOHOMISH — Scott Kelly had to drive around a fallen tree in a windstorm to get to the school.

Along the way, he wondered if the blustery winds would keep the other dads away.

It seemed his goal of getting fathers to volunteer en masse at Little Cedars Elementary School would be left blowing in the wind.

But mere weather didn’t deter these dads.

Roughly 150 showed up two weeks ago with 200 of their kids for a pizza party. As the children played in the gym, the dads learned how and why they should help out in the classroom.

“It was an amazing sight,” said Kelly, 38, who has two children at the school.

The dads and kids consumed more than 55 pizzas and signed their names on a giant calendar, committing to days they could lend a hand at the new campus in the Snohomish School District.

Little Cedars Elementary School has joined a National Center for Fathering initiative called Watch DOGS, short for Dads Of Great Students. The program was founded by Jim Moore, an Arkansas dad who wanted to do more in 1998 after a middle school shooting that drew national attention in his home state. Today, there are more than 500 similar programs in 25 states nationwide.

Organizers say there are several benefits: schools gain an extra set of eyes and ears, increasing the sense of security; students get a positive male role model and dads become more aware of how they can help their children and the school.

“I wanted to help out,” Kelly said. “I wanted to be involved. I wanted to make a difference. This program has been really easy to get started.”

Principal Becky Brockman and Sam Hanson, her assistant, embraced the idea from the start.

“These people would not be here without this program,” Hanson said.

Now Brockman said she’s now fielding questions from students wondering when their dad is going to be a watchdog.

Most days of the week, at least one dad shows up early, puts on a Watchdog T-shirt and gets an orientation and customized schedule. During the day, he helps inside his own childrens’ classrooms and throughout the campus.

Landscaper Mike Kerley took a soggy Wednesday off work last week to volunteer. He found himself sitting cross-legged on the floor of a kindergarten class at story time, playing football, basketball and jumping rope at recess and PE and consoling a crying youngster in the afternoon.

The highlight of the day was the reaction from his kindergarten son, Jordan.

“When I left, he gave me a big old bear hug and I was giving kids high 5s,” Kerley said.

Dominic D’Angelo, 37, spent his Monday at the school, beginning at the bus drop off where he greeted dozens of students.

He’s glad his daughters, Danielle, 10, a fifth grader, and Bella, 8, a third grader, got to observe their Dad on campus helping out — a day he believes they will remember for years to come.

“The kids are definitely excited to see their dads on campus,” he said.

Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or e-mail stevick@heraldnet.com.

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