Dozens of dads gathered for a parade through South Austin on Saturday to celebrate Father’s Day a week early and to recognize the influential role fathers play in the lives of their children.
The River City Youth Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of children and families in the Dove Springs area, organized the parade.
“It was the parents that came up with this wonderful idea,” said Mona Gonzalez, the longtime director of the foundation. “Dads are important, and the parade was a way to send that message to the community.”
Children whose fathers are involved at home and at school have better grades and better academic success, Gonzalez said. The celebration got its start at a time when Austin was experiencing a rise in youth gang activity and juvenile delinquency. This is the 13th year the foundation has held the parade.
Marcos Rodriguez, 39, marched with his wife and two young children for the third year in a row. He canceled a work trip to Alabama to be there, he said.
“I’m here to play with my kids,” he said, smiling.
George Morales, a chief deputy constable in Travis County, grew up in Dove Springs and at 18 got involved with the foundation, which he credited as one source of his success. He marched in the parade with his son and daughter.
“You always knew you could go to (the foundation) and be around good people and good mentors,” he said.
The biggest barrier to paternal involvement is time, Gonzalez said. Many dads work long hours at multiple jobs.
“They love their children, and they want to spend more time with them, but they work in jobs where they leave before the child wakes up and get home after the child is asleep,” Gonzalez said.
Edward Reyes and his wife, Joann, marched with their four children. They have been volunteering with the foundation since 2009.
“I think events like this are important to recognize that everyone is doing their part,” he said. “I think fathers are especially important in this neighborhood. There aren’t that many, and we have to shine a light on them.”