By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN In today’s busy world, fathers may find themselves having even less quality time to spend with their children.
Through All Pro Dads, fathers can share a breakfast one hour a month discussing various topics that just might make all the difference.
All Pro Dads is a national fatherhood program that is a partnership between Family First and the national PTA.
On the local level, Cokato father of three, Joel Hillmann was encouraged to become an All Pro Dads team captain and started a chapter at Cokato Elementary last year.
The first chapter meeting was in January, and the group continues to meet at 7 a.m. the first Thursday of the month for fathers and school-age children in grades kindergarten through grade 4. Meetings include a free breakfast, as well as discussion and activities surrounding a specific curriculum topic.
The November curriculum topic was on being thankful.
Following breakfast, there is a time when dads share with the group a reason why they are proud of their child or children in attendance.
When the father’s speaking, Hillmann will look at the expression on the child’s face, which he says is one you can’t put a price on.
Dads are getting more comfortable sharing what they are most proud of with the group, Hillmann said, who encourages fathers to do as often as they can.
The group then watches a short video on the featured topic, and takes time for one-on-one discussion.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, both the father and child shared what they were thankful for during last Thursday’s meeting.
They also took time to thank people who have helped make Cokato’s All Pro Dads possible including Cokato Elementary Principal Lorene Force, Wylene Danielson, cook; and Dave Hoyhtya, custodian. The group also thanked Hillmann for all he’s done to coordinate the monthly meetings.
At the end of the meeting, dads are given a father challenge for the month. This month, dads were given a pumpkin shake recipe and the challenge to shop for the ingredients with their child and make shakes together.
All Pro Dads can also sign up for daily e-mails with tips on how to be a better father and husband.
All Pro Dads allows one hour of time to focus on each other and have positive interaction that can ultimately strengthen the relationship, Hillmann said.
Thursday was Landon Steinhaus’ second meeting with daughter Austin. She enjoys having breakfast with her dad, and the meetings help to boost her self-esteem, Landon said. For him, “It’s good one-on-one time together,” he said.
To assist on the local level with curriculum costs, the Dassel-Cokato PTA recently contributed $300 to the program for the 2011-12 school year. Last year, it helped with the start-up costs.
“We’re excited about what Joel is doing,” said PTA Treasurer Mike Seaberg. “It’s a wonderful thing for the community and we are happy to help out.”
There are about 15 to 20 dads who participate on a regular basis, though there is no monthly commitment necessary.
Since the curriculum is different each month, fathers can come when it fits their schedule, Hillmann explained.
“It’s really humbling they keep taking the time to come,” Hillmann said, adding that there is always room for more dads and children.
The next meeting will be Thursday, Dec. 1, and the topic will be honoring one’s father.
To register for a meeting, visit the Cokato chapter’s website, www.allprodad.com/dd/2356, or call Hillmann at (320) 286-5955. To start a chapter
Starting a chapter is easy since it’s a “turn-key program” with all the curriculum and tools there for someone willing to become a team captain, according to Hillmann.
In addition to an elementary All Pro Dads chapter, there is also an opportunity for a middle school and high school chapter.
There is also an opportunity for a mothers’ chapter through iMOM, a counterpart of All Pro Dad.
The district administration and staff at Cokato Elementary have been very supportive.
“Both Jeff Powers (superintendent) and Lorene have been 100 percent behind it,” Hillmann said.
For more information on starting a local chapter, contact Hillmann by phone, (320) 286-5955 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.