Jim Moore remembers how helpless he felt the day he heard of a school shooting in Jonesboro, Ark. Even though it was far from where his own children went to school in Springdale, Ark., the news made his children anxious, and he felt the need to do something -- anything.
"I thought about the people in our community, and could this happen here?" Moore said.
So, Moore called a friend, Eric Snow, who also had children in school -- and what sprung up was the national WatchDOGS organization, a group of fathers and other figures who volunteer to serve at least one day each year at school activities to promote safety.
Moore believed it was the right thing to do.
"I began to think about, well, who's there that's making a difference and who's not there? And it really just kind of hit me -- somebody who's not there who could be there is me," he said. "And I thought, 'well, what if you could create a program for fathers, and father figures, that come to school just to be that extra set of eyes and ears for the students and for the teachers?'"
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From that small beginning has sprung a national corps of 45,000 dads who volunteer in more than 800 schools nationwide. WatchDOGS, which originally stood for "Watch Dads of George Students," after the George Elementary School in Springdale, Ark., where Moore's children attended school, has blossomed into a national movement, "Dads of Great Students."
At the outset, there were many who doubted that Moore could convince fathers to take a day off of work to volunteer at school; especially that they could be persuaded to do it more than once.
"But you know what? They do," said Moore. "Because there really is this thing taking place in our country and the world -- a paradigm shift -- where men really, honestly do want to spend time with their kids."
Amy Hercules, the principal of Countryside Elementary School in Olathe, Kan., was uncertain what kind of reception she would get when she sent out a notice to parents that she hoped to start a WatchDOGS program. She planned a "kickoff" pizza party, where she hoped to gauge the level of interest in the community.
"We had over 110 dads to our first kickoff, and that's in a school with 240 kids," said Hercules, who smiled as she thought back to that evening. "I went in -- I'm embarrassed to say this -- with very low expectations ... we're pulling chairs from every classroom to find a place for them -- that just exceeded everything."
Now Hercules has a small troop of fathers, uncles and grandfathers who spend a day or half-day at the school assisting in classrooms, monitoring the hallways and playgrounds and helping out in the lunchroom. She hands the dads a detailed itinerary on what their role will be in the school during the day and how best to assist students and teachers. Fathers, Hercules has discovered, like an organized set of plans and a clear goal for the day.
"I think so much of our volunteer efforts have been mothers coming in, and I think dads see that sometimes and think, 'well, you know, where do I fit in this puzzle?'" Hercules said. "I don't think they've been ignored, really. I just think they've been an untapped resource, until programs like WatchDOGS have found a way to tap into that."