The College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences has joined forces with WVU Extension Service to develop a program that encourages quality time between fathers and their children at local Monongalia Elementary schools.
Known as iFather, program organizers kicked off spring sessions at Skyview Elementary in March and have since held events at neighboring Ridgedale, Cheat Lake, Mountainview and Brookhaven schools.
The program is free and open to all fathers with students enrolled in Pre-K – second grades at participating elementary schools.
Byron Towner, CPASS clinical instructor and iFather activities coordinator, explained that fathers and their children divide into groups to participate in competitive activities.
Towner said the sessions help increase a father’s involvement with their child, using a holistic approach. “We engage in activities that challenge the father and child physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. We implement cooperative learning activities that increase father/child communication skills while also increasing activity levels,” he added.
The program increases physical activity levels in children and their fathers. With West Virginia ranking as one of the highest states for obesity in the nation, the focus on physical activity makes sense.
The program has received positive feedback from the local community, with volunteers from local high schools, fraternities, senior-citizen groups and wrestling clubs. “Once the community buys in, the sky is the limit as to how far the initiative will go,” said Towner.
Towner hopes to expand the program to neighboring counties and, eventually, statewide. “We've had great success in Monongalia County, but we know given the right opportunity, we could really get fathers throughout this state actively engaged with their children and lead them down the right path moving forward,” Towner explained.