Being Superman: Dads Changing the World through Volunteerism
By Cynthia Lyerly & LaToya Cole
One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people.
- Dick Gregory
Can’t stop speeding bullets? Can’t fly gracefully through the air or solve the mysteries of the universe? Hey, that’s ok. There are other ways to make a difference in the world and one of the biggest is by helping others through volunteerism. Giving of one’s self is the ultimate in giving back and we highlight four fathers who found the time to give back by volunteering. As you’ll see, all have reaped unimaginable rewards.
Twenty five years ago, Bill Steele was an inner-city high school teacher. Like many educators, he was constantly faced with the task of reaching his students. “Every child seemed to have a sad story,” he recalled.
There was one boy Bill wanted to reach, but wasn’t sure how. “He was not dumb, but was flunking his classes,” Bill said. Bill and the boy went on a camping trip sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America. Two days in the wilderness with Bill and the other volunteers was just what the boy needed. The change was dramatic. “I was asked to share my experience regarding this boy and his turnaround over and over again,” Bill said. His story touched so many people that the Boy Scouts wanted everyone to hear it, in hopes of inspiring others to volunteer. Bill was also inspired - enough to change professions. He went from being a high school teacher to an employee of the Boy Scouts of America at their national headquarters. “As a teacher I could affect 150 kids a semester,” he said. “With scouting I can affect 4.5 million.”
While Bill’s story seems a little unusual, the call to get involved has not fallen on deaf ears. Tom Rollbuhler, a father of two, works full-time and is a dedicated volunteer with the Cub Scouts. He has served for six years and is currently a Cub Master. He is responsible for nine dens that meet regularly at his church.
As a boy Tom was a scout, so it was only natural to get his son involved. “You get a lot more out of it than you ever think you will,” he said. While his son went on to become a Boy Scout, he chose to continue his work with the Cubs. “You experience it (scouting) differently as an adult than you do as a child.” Kids and parents enjoy the activities. There are many ways in which adults can get involved, such as den leader, the head of any of the numerous committees, staff treasurer and others. If any of these jobs seem a bit much, attending the monthly meetings is enough.
“BSA does not stand for Babysitters of America,” Tom joked. He assures that no scouting experience is required. There is always a need for volunteers. Two leaders must always be present with the boys at all times. “It’s in case something happens to one of the leaders, there’s always a backup,” Tom explained.
Like the kids, adults also make friends. Tom says he benefits from the “male bonding” that takes place with other dads. The men talk about home repair, ideas for other scouting events and relationship problems.
Above all Tom says he enjoys volunteering because of the measurable difference he makes in others’ lives. “It doesn’t have to be just your son,” he said.” I enjoy watching single parent kids get encouragement from the scouting community.”
In most communities, where there are balls and bats, there are kids and sports.
Volunteers primarily run the majority of community sports teams. Coaches, assistants and refereed sports teams could not function without the help of dedicated parents.
Scott Muir considers it an honor and privilege to be a part of his sons’ sports. As a commander in the US Navy, Scott was home and away for three month intervals. “I was never able to commit to anything,” he said. Now that he has retired, Scott has made coaching a top priority. He coaches both football and baseball for his boys’ teams. “It keeps me involved in their lives,” he said. Because Scott was away from his family for such long extended periods of time, he understands the need for parental involvement of any kind. Just sitting in the stands at a game can mean a lot to a child. “Some weeks there are only three parents in the stands,” Scott said.
Scott advices all parents to get involved. “You don’t have to be head coach,” he said. “Just help out in any way.” He feels any type of quality time spent with kids and you will quickly see how much of a difference you make in their lives.
While Bill, Tom and Scott all joined established organizations, Jim Moore started his own. After watching the school shooting that occurred in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998, Jim started WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students) Across America.
“I wanted to create a program where fathers and father figures could come to school to be an extra set of eyes and ears and to be a positive male role model, not only to their own children but to the student body as a whole,” Jim explained.
Jim says volunteering is crucial to the success of the program, as it is a catalyst for what they do. The beauty of the program is that all parties involved benefit.
“The fathers win when they come to school because they’re Michael Jordan on the playground, Albert Einstein in the classroom, and Superman in the hallways,” Jim said. “Their level of self esteem is raised and many want to come back time and time again. The school benefits because the dads get to see many of the pressures that educators face in the 21 century. It also raises their level of appreciation for the school and its leaders.”
The success of the program has also provided Jim with more parental insight. “It gives me a clear glimpse into some of the pressures our children face each day,”. It helps him to understand when talking to his own kids. He is now more sympathetic to his children, which is something they appreciate.
For Jim, the most measurable result is the response he gets from school principals and the fathers that are involved with WatchDOGS. The principals comment on the changes the schools have experienced due to their involvement. The fathers often speak of improvements in the relationships they have with their children. “Most have a child they weren’t close to but because of the program, they have reconnected with their child,” Jim said.
Heroes are made everyday just by helping someone. Think you can’t be Superman? Well, maybe you can.