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For Plano resident Tom Parker, father of five, there has never been an easier way to spend exciting quality time with each of his kids than through the Adventure Guides program at the Plano YMCA.

Designed to strengthen the bond between fathers and their children between the grades of K-3, Adventure Guides builds greater self-confidence, a sense of self responsibility and responsibility to others, the ability to make good choices and to develop greater respect for others through a host of fun activities such as camping, hiking, canoeing, derby car racing, rocket launching, and pumpkin carving.

When Tom and his family first moved out to Plano, they wanted to find some avenue to get involved in the community because they were new to the area. One day, his two girls came home from school talking about all the fun and interesting activities of the Adventure Guides program at the Plano Y. Intrigued, Tom got in touch with a local dad involved in the program and before he knew it, he was off to his first campout with his eldest daughter Savannah, then in the third grade.

The two found the experience absolutely wonderful! Tom connected well with the other dads and saw the program as a great avenue for getting more one-on-one time with the kids.

“We got plugged in right away and just had a ball,” Tom said.

Both of Tom’s daughters, Savannah (16) and Ashley (13), have been through the four-year program, with his son Lane (8) in his final year. The program has impacted each of his kids in a variety of ways. For Savannah, who Tom said was the most introverted of his kids, Adventure Guides helped her form great friendships and develop a social circle with the other kids. Ashley, who’s very headstrong and likes to be in charge, learned how to develop her natural leadership skills, and also learned how to work well within a team. For Lane, the program has taught him the importance of teamwork and knowing how to function as part of a group to accomplish a task.

Of course, fathers and their children aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the benefits of getting to spend quality one-on-one time through the Adventure Guides program, as was the case with Claire Fesenmaire (11), who’s mom Chelsey worked as a live-in nanny for a time for the Parkers. Tom took Claire – whose own father had been out of the picture for most of her life – to all the Adventure Guides activities and events and treated her as if she were his own daughter, an experience he said gave her that unique opportunity to see what a good relationship between a father and his child looks like.

Tom also volunteers as a member of the Longhouse, a group of 6-10 volunteer dads who help run the Adventure Guides program and participate in all eight campouts each year. While the Plano Y operates the program and schedules all the fun events and activities, The Longhouse goes above and beyond to enhance the program by making the experience even better for the kids. For example, during the program’s Turkey Shoot event in November, instead of having static paper turkeys for kids to shoot, the Longhouse dads will dress in turkey suits and let the kids have a blast shooting paintball guns at them!

Tom said the Longhouse has also given Savannah and Ashley the opportunity to pitch in and help him and the volunteer dads with the program’s activities, which provides Tom another unique way to spend time with his daughters.

“The Longhouse has been another benefit by allowing me to further that time spent with my kids, and impact more kids that way as well,” Tom said.

Remaining ever dedicated to his role with Adventure Guides and the Longhouse, Tom believes the program positively impacts the lives of kids in ways that can be seen years down the road when they enter the teen phase.

“It’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve probably ever done,” Tom said. “It’s just an amazing program because of the impact that you can have on a child’s life. Going on a campout and having a great time, doing a Turkey Shoot and a Derby Day’s car race, it’s all great fun. But when they’re 16 and they got a real problem, and they come to you and say, ‘Dad, I need your help,’ that’s where this program makes the most impact. That’s why I dedicate the time I have to this program, and that’s what it means to me.”

Upcoming events for the Plano YMCA Adventure Guides program include trips to Sky Ranch for the second graders on Sept. 18, CampClassen for first graders on Oct. 2, Camp Grady Spruce for third graders on Oct. 16 and the annual Pumpkin Carving on Oct. 26.

For more information on the Adventure Guides program at the Plano Y, visit ymcadallas.org/locations/plano/adventure_guides/.

Submitted by BRN Media. 

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