Rotary Pushes for Fatherhood Involvement

Dads and their children are set to take over the Memphis Zoo this week for Fatherhood Friday, an initiative organized by the Memphis Rotary Club, an organization of businessmen and women committed to improving the community through service activities.

The June 29 event – designed to support, encourage and enhance the father-child bond – is open to all fathers in the community.

"We wanted a Rotary-focused event that could make an impact on the city of Memphis," said Fatherhood Friday chairman Larry Robinson, who also serves as chair of Memphis Rotary Club’s New Members Projects Committee. "Fatherhood is a unique issue in that you have plenty of fathers but you don’t have many dads. Because Rotary’s membership is so heavily male, we thought that if we were to put together a civic initiative that would get fathers to be more engaged with their children, it would be fantastic."

Registration at the Memphis Zoo, 2000 Prentiss Place, will begin at 9:30 a.m., with festivities scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Regular Zoo admission policies apply to Fatherhood Friday participants, and each father and their child or children will receive a special Fatherhood Friday T-shirt and a backpack.

Although the Rotary Club is presenting the event, the Memphis Zoo’s Education Department is the official host of Fatherhood Friday.

"We want all fathers in Memphis that day to spend some time with their children and come by the zoo, whether you spend all day at the zoo by taking off from work or you just come at lunchtime with your child," Robinson said.

He also said the event stemmed from a conversation he had with Katy Spurlock, director of education at The Urban Child Institute.

"She said fatherhood is a major issue that’s not being addressed," Robinson said. "That was the genesis for this."

The Urban Child Institute, city of Memphis, Memphis Zoo, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, United Way of the Mid-South and Cisco Systems Inc. have all partnered with The Rotary Club to get the word out about Fatherhood Friday.

Robinson said fathers have a tremendous amount of influence over their children, but many don’t realize how their presence can help improve their children’s school attendance and graduation rates and reduce incidences of things such as childhood obesity and teen pregnancy.

"Piggybacking on what (Memphis Mayor A C) Wharton has done with the city’s training camp for dads, we think that by being a part of that as well, we can make a difference," Robinson said. "Rotary is service above self. Service to our children is even greater."

Robinson said he hopes Fatherhood Friday will become a popular event that will be held several times annually.

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