Giving back can be hard to do, especially when you give so much already to your family, your job, and other things that take a piece of your time and attention. How does one find the time and energy to continue to give?
For Eric Smith, father of four girls, husband, and firefighter, he has still managed to give back in one more amazing way. Eric is a Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer in the Raymore-Peculiar School District near Kansas City, Missouri.
Statistics show that around 30 to 40% of school-aged children do not have a male role model at home; the Watch D.O.G.S. program is a way to put a positive male presence in the schools for students to turn to, confide in, or just throw a ball with at recess.
Volunteering with the Watch D.O.G.S. program, Eric gets to know a lot of the students and they look forward to days when he and the other fathers in the program are around- including Eric’s daughters, ages 13, 9, 5, and 18 months (who hasn’t yet had to hit the books).
“They eat it up. They love having me there.”
The Watch D.O.G.S. program schedules full days for the volunteers to be in the schools, which allows them to be available for reading and math help, test anxiety, helping teachers in the classroom, talking with students in the hall, and playing on the playground. What may not sound like a lot of work makes a huge impact in these young lives.
“Kids will run up to me in the hallway, say, ‘hey, that’s the WatchDOG!’ and give me a huge hug. All of this just because I spend a little time with them.”
Eric also serves on the South Metro Fire District. He says he will occasionally run into kids from the school district while responding to calls from the fire station and they will always give him a warm greeting.
“They will see me and immediately feel comfortable just because I spent ten minutes with them in their classroom or on the playground. I think sometimes they are just looking for some positive attention and it can be very sad. It makes me realize that maybe of all the worrying we do, my kids may have it better off than I thought.”
“Dad, fireman, the
Watch D.O.G.S.…it’s a three-way split and I answer to all of those,” he says.
As for continuing his involvement with the school district’s Watch D.O.G.S. program, Eric says he did the math. “When my youngest is through, I will have done 12 years with the program. I will stay as long as they will have me.”
Eric Smith is a Class of 2012, BS Business Administration graduate.