A bunch of clowns took over the carpool line at Hawk Ridge Elementary in Ballantyne a couple weeks ago.
Wearing oversized shoes, colorful wigs, face paint and red noses, they cheerfully opened car doors and welcomed children to school.
The clowns weren’t staff members or part of a visiting circus; they were a group of men creatively exhibiting their devotion to serving the school.
They call themselves the Hawk Dads.
Hawk Dads is a group of men that meets monthly to brainstorm ways to support the teachers, staff and students at their kids’ elementary school. It started during the 2010-2011 school year, when Principal Troy Moore approached Steve Bucey, a father who was a regular volunteer at the school, and asked how they could get more men involved.
Using a distribution list from the PTA, Bucey sent an email to parents inviting dads to meet with him and Moore. Eight fathers showed up and agreed to plan a Dads’ Assistance Day.
“We discussed many things at that first meeting,” said Bucey, “but the main point was to challenge each dad to reach out and find more dads to join the group.”
They quickly met the challenge, and the number of men committed to the group swelled to 50, then 100, and now has nearly 200 names receiving weekly Hawk Dads emails.
Bucey stepped in to lead the group, whose first big endeavor was to hold a movie night at the school. The Hawk Dads made fliers, set up the equipment, sold tickets, bought and served snacks, supervised more than 80 kids for the evening and cleaned up afterward. The event was such a hit that movie nights now accommodate nearly 250 students for two different films (one for kindergarten through second grade and one for grades three through five).
The first Dads’ Assistance Day was in spring 2011, and it too was a big success. Moore solicited teachers for a description of projects or tasks that needed completing, compiling a daunting list four pages long.
About 50 Hawk Dads showed up at 7:45 on a weekday morning and worked for three hours. They finished every item on the list, and most stayed to have lunch with their children.
“You know men: give them a list and they will get it done,” said Bucey. “The dads were excited, the kids loved seeing the dads in school and the teachers really appreciated the help.”
There are now two assistance days held each year, and more than 100 dads show up to help out.
As the membership list grew, so did the group’s effect on the school. Hawk Dads started a career day, runs the rides at the school’s annual Hawk Fest, provides security for a variety of events and even helps out at the school store.
The men “take pride in being a role model at the school and are always looking for a way to do more,” said Bucey.
During the group’s second year, member Troy Ohmes recognized an opportunity to offer additional support to the school staff. He recruited fellow Hawk Dads to work the carpool line Friday mornings so the teachers could have a bit of a break and a little more time to prepare in their classrooms.
The dads dressed up a few times for special occasions or holidays, and the kids came to expect it.
Now there is a theme each Friday, and the car riders are greeted by a continually changing cast of characters, including gladiators, elves, ’70s-era hippies, a bevy of bald men and – in honor of the recent Super Bowl – a group of NFL fanatics.
“I hear the parents talking about the carpool with excitement,” said Moore. “It has brought a spirit element to our school every week, and it completely uplifts our staff. But all the other things the Hawk Dads do, too – it’s just amazing. It’s exceeded my expectations and is far bigger than Steve (Bucey) and I envisioned.”
The membership and involvement has expanded each year, but Moore, Bucey and Ohmes – selected to succeed Bucey in the leadership role this year – want to do even more.
Their goal is to create awareness of the effect the group is having and help expand the concept to other schools.
“Dads want to participate, but they’re not usually seekers,” said Ohmes. “If they’re asked to do something, they’re more than willing to do it, but you have to ask. Having a group like this in place makes it easy for them to get involved.”
Although the intent is to support the school, the Hawk Dads also are reaping pretty big benefits. As Ohmes said, “My daughters actually still want me to be a part of what they do. Other kids tell me they want their dad to be one of the cool dads. They get really excited when they see us at school, and we’re treated like rock stars.”
Maybe that should be next Friday’s carpool theme.
Angel Trimble is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Angel? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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