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All Pro Dads welcome ex-Buc

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Published:   |   Updated: March 12, 2013 at 01:30 PM
NEW PORT RICHEY -

The cafeteria at Chasco Elementary School filled up as fathers and their sons and daughters grabbed breakfast trays and found seats along the plastic benches.

Clean-cut dads, biker dads, tattooed dads, athletic dads, and even a few grandfathers and mothers turned their attention to the "welcome" message projected on a rolling screen.

What they all had in common was All Pro Dad, a national Christian, athletic organization based in Tampa that encourages schools to hold a one-hour, monthly breakfasts before school for dads and their kids to spend time together, discuss family topics and create memories through fun activities.

More than two dozen dads participated in February's breakfast, which featured a visit from former Tampa Bay Buccaneers long-snapper Ryan Benjamin. Benjamin, a River Ridge High School graduate, donned a No. 66 Bucs jersey with his name on the back.

He talked about playing football for the University of South Florida, filling in for an injured player on a one-game contract with the Chicago Bears and winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002 against the Oakland Raiders as a Buccaneer. He also talked about family.

"No one ever looks back with regret and says I wish I didn't spend so much time with my kids when they were younger," Benjamin said, "I spend as much time with my kids as possible."

The All Pro Dads chapter at Chasco is led by second-grade teacher Jarret Seese and by Matt VanStratt, grandfather of a Chasco student. The monthly events begin with a breakfast and then fathers and children talk about family topics.

"It's a great way for dads to come and spend some quality time with their kids," Seese said.

The program began at Chasco at the start of the 2012-2013 school year, joining hundreds of schools across the nation. Tony Dungy , who served as head coach for the Bucs from 1996 to 2001 and won the 2007 Super Bowl as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, helped start All Pro Dad in 1997,. He creates videos for the monthly meetings and issues themes for discussion and challenges to dads and their kids.

February's theme, "Making Things Better," issued this challenge: Decide what you can do to make mom's day better and do it this month, such as wash the dishes, cook dinner or clean her car.

"Any time you can get fathers more involved with their kids, you're going to have nothing but positive things come out of it," VanStratt said. "It helps kids to have their fathers involved, and it helps fathers get some healthy tips on how to be a good parent."

The first thing Seese asked the fathers to do after they finished their breakfast was to stand up and say what they were proud of their child for. Answers ranged from improving grades and cleaning their rooms to not fighting with siblings and taking on the responsibility for a pet.

Many of the fathers hugged their kids close during the breakfast. Jason Vega kissed the top of his son's head when Benjamin talked about the importance of spending time with one's kids. Vega, a single father, sees his 8-year-old son Anthony every other week. "It was a good feeling, all these dads coming out for support," Vega said. "The speaker was great and he said a lot of positive things that kids need to hear more these days."

For more information, and to sign up for daily emails, blogs, Top 10 Lists, articles, printable tools, videos and eBooks on how to be a better dad, visit www.allprodad.com.

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