When several community leaders got together eight years ago to launch a campaign focused on getting fathers more involved with their children, they never thought it would become what it is today — a huge event that brings together people from all over the area.
“The Fort Wayne Commission for Social Status of African American Males had been doing what we called the Fatherhood Initiative the first weekend of August,” explained organizer and Fort Wayne City Councilman Glynn Hines. “We would give away backpacks and school supplies and the fathers were encouraged to accompany their child in order to get the backpacks.”
“The main purpose was to get fathers more engaged with their kids’ education, like volunteering in their schools, meeting the teacher, going to PTA meetings, talking to their kid for at least 15 minutes a day about their education,” said Andre Patterson, the founder of the organization. “When fathers are involved, delinquency goes down and grades go up.
“Most dads will go and watch their kid play in some sporting event or something like that. That’s a priority to them and they take pride in their kids and sports. What we want is for men to do the same thing in their kids’ education. If you gave the same effort and showed up as if you were going to a football game or basketball game, any athletic endeavor that the kid is in, then the kid will have a sense of pride in education like they would in sports.”
As the event grew, organizers wanted to find ways to reach even more people. That’s how the Summer Community Celebration was born.
The third annual event will take place on Saturday, August 3, at McMillen Park in Fort Wayne. It’s free and open to the public.
“The celebration is designed to bring the community together, especially in the southeast section of town,” Patterson said. “There was really nothing to bring the community together and what better way to bring the community together than with food and entertainment.”
This year’s celebration will include The Zapp Band and the S.O.S. Band live at the McMillen Park Community Center at 3901 Abbott St.
The Funk Thang will open the all-day show, which will also feature special guests The Sweetwater All Stars.
“We were excited to get involved with the Summer Community Celebration several years ago as a way to bring people together,” said Chuck Surack, the Founder and CEO of Sweetwater and saxophonist for the All Stars. “We feel like there’s no better way to do that than through music. It bridges the gaps between generations and races and socioeconomic status in a way that nothing else can.”
In addition to the live music, attendees can learn more about social services agencies in the community and see products from more than 50 small business vendors.
There will also be food and drinks available for purchase.
Most importantly, though, those who gather are encouraged to simply spend time with their neighbors, friends, and families.
“Men can sign up to take pledges to actively volunteer in their children’s classrooms, help them with their homework, and escort them to class the first day of school,” Patterson said. “We have book bags and school supplies for the kids. It’s the one opportunity for families to come together and enjoy the park, enjoy each other, enjoy music, enjoy food, and it doesn’t cost them a whole lot.”
The Summer Community Celebration is also a chance to recognize those who are working to make a difference.
Last year, two students received scholarships to apply to their post-secondary education and four fathers were honored for their dedication to improving the academic and social success of local kids.
“You get involved and you stay involved. It’s two different kinds of playing fields because when it comes to school, it’s predominately moms or women who deal with the school, and when it comes to sports, it’s predominately dads who deal with the coaches and things like that. But it should be the same thing,” Patterson said. “We want dads to understand that and embrace it.”