By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — A citywide school event on Thursday is rather like Father's Day except that fathers and other male role models will be the ones delivering the gifts. And in this case, the gift is their presence.
Starting early Thursday morning, city schools are holding the second annual Dads take Your Child to School Day, with an open invitation to all men who care about one or more children in local schools.
“We want this to be step one in making fathers and men feel valued and welcomed in our schools,” said Judie Gregory-Glaser, chairman of the event.
Participants will include fathers, grandfathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, uncles, cousins, big brothers, significant male caregivers and family friends. They will be welcomed to the new school year by area leaders, police officers and Board of Education members.
Every adult who participates will receive a bumper sticker that says, “I took my child to school,” and will receive information about the school, the district and on volunteering, Gregory-Glaser said.
“There has been tremendous support for this event to reinforce the importance of men in the lives of children,” she added, citing donations which will be used as door prizes, from Maid of the Mist, Four Seasons Cinema, the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bisons, the Aquarium of Niagara and Niagara University, each of which contributed items to be used as door prizes at elementary schools.
The events start at most of the schools at 9 a.m. except for Maple Elementary where Superintendent of Police John Chella will be one of the greeters at a small breakfast for fathers and men between 8:25 and 8:45 a.m., along with Pastor Charles Searcy of Trinity Baptist Church.
The chief said that his department gladly participates in several area programs that supporting male role models in children's lives.
"What we try to project is the importance that these children see in a father figure and how it relates to their activity and their approach to life and society," Chella said.
Domingo Garcia, father advocate for Family & Children’s Services, who is the welcomer at Harry F. Abate Elementary, said that statistics show children with responsible male role models do better in school and in life. "Children are five times more likely to be poor without a father's involvement and five times more likely to drop out of school," he said. Greeters at Abate are Daniel Penque, parent and Board of Education Member Don J. King. There will be an assembly/breakfast for men.
Plans at other schools include:
Niagara Street School: Welcome-giver is Jeff Wierzbicki, director of the Casey House. Greeters are Joe Lowery, Officer Dan Bird. Stuart Scnettler, Boy Scouts of America.
Hyde Park Elementary: Welcome-giver is Councilman Charles Walker. Greeters include Steve Blass of the Boy Scouts of America.
Kalfas Elementary: Greeters are Niagara County Legislator Owen Steed, Mayor Paul Dyster and Board of Education President Carmelette Rotella.
Cataract Elementary: Greeters are Police Capt. John DeMarco. Pastor Ray Allen of Bethany Baptist Church and Pastor Harvey Kelly of New Hope Baptist Church. A breakfast/assembly will be held.
Mann: Greeter are Officer John Corcoran and Board of Education Member Russ Petrozzi. Light refreshments will be served.
79th St. Elementary School: Greeter is Board of Education Member Nick Vilardo. A breakfast/assembly will be held.
Catholic Academy: Greeter is Niagara Falls Police Detective Det. Bob DeMarco. Students are asked to arrive with their dads beginning at 7:50 a.m. Dads will be greeted and escort their children to the classrooms. They will then return to the cafeteria for coffee, donuts and a short program beginning at 8:10 a.m. following prayer and announcements.
Niagara Catholic: Greeter is Officer James VanEgmond