CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Thursday morning, about 15,000 fathers and father figures will be participating in the annual Fathers Walk in Cuyahoga County.
More than 150 schools are participating.
It’s the 11th walk sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative, Passages, I Am A Dream and the Healthy Fathering Collaborative.
Al Grimes, director of the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative, called the event a walk with a purpose.
"When you see some of the footage of the walks the children are really proud to have their dads walking them to school that day," Grimes said. "And you know what, surprisingly enough the schools tell us that's probably the best-behaved day of the year."
Grimes said countywide about 44 percent of children are growing up in a single-family home (led my mom). He said in Cleveland about 7 in 10 kids are growing up in a single-family home.
The Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative funds a dozen programs to offer guidance, resources and support to fathers wanting to become more active in their children’s lives.
"We emphasize the importance of fathers being involved in their children’s’ lives, because we know what a difference it makes when two parents are involved in raising their children," Grimes said. "We know a lot of times that the non-custodial parent is the father. So, we emphasize to the parents whether you're in the house in the house with your child or not- you still need to be part of raising and nurturing your children."
Grimes said it's critical that dads be present both emotionally and financially.
"Because you can be there all day buying the new Jordans (shoes) and buying the new sweatshirts, but if you're not there when a child needs somebody to talk to about being bullied or something that's going on at school than something’s missing," Grimes said. "On the other hand, children have to eat. So, you can be best friends, but you have to provide for them. So, we provide a mixture of programs to help father meet both the emotional and the financial needs of their children."
Grimes said the event is also an opportunity for schools to connect with dads, stepfathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and father figures. Many schools will be offering a breakfast for those who participate.
"This is an opportunity for them while the fathers are there to say, 'Hey, would you like to come back for this event, would you like to come back and help the school out- volunteer and do these kinds of things.'"
Fathers will be asked to sign a pledge asking them to be responsible for the education of their kids. It also as fathers to work with their child’s mother or guardian to achieve the best academic and social outcomes for the kid.