When dads are involved, kids do better. That simple maxim became the driving force behind a program developed by St. Francis Health Center, Topeka, Kan., which had assembled area leaders to delve into their community's problems.
In October 2000, St. Francis established a partnership with the National Center for Fathering that has produced an annual essay-writing contest about "What My Father Means to Me," a two-day communitywide kids' boot camp, a summit for fathers and their teenage daughters, and a day in the park for fathers and kids of all ages. For these efforts, the center has received an honorable mention in the Spirit of Excellence community award.
"It's been a very powerful program for us at a root-cause level," says Larry Seidl, vice president of mission for 274-bed St. Francis, which has spent $285,000 on the program's various activities, in which more than 6,600 children, fathers and father figures have participated. "We kept doing our homework. It kept drilling down, drilling down, and it kept pointing to the fact that that relationship is critical. A lot of dads were never prepared for it." As part of the day at the park, fathers take a quiz with questions about their kids' favorite colors and foods. "It makes the dad realize how out of touch they've become," Seidl says. "The more involved and connected they are, the better."