Changing the future one teen at a time

Dads for a Day serves about 18 teens, pairing volunteers with the young men for one-on-one time.

The men who volunteer for Dads for a Day give so much more than a day of their time.  The faith-based program was founded by Curtis Ostrander about two years ago with a goal to help boys in middle and high school navigate their way through the teen years to adulthood. The boys usually meet a few hours on a regular basis with their Dad for a Day mentors. Often, the visits include fishing trips, shooting hoops, disc golf and dozens of other ways the men and boys can interact. “We provide free, one-to-one mentoring programs for boys in homes without fathers,” said Ostrander, of the Village of Lake Deaton . “The goal is to teach the boys the meaning of virtue and life lessons.”

Most of the boys in the program live near The Villages, in Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. They are referred through schools, churches and other organizations.

Often, single mothers, grandmothers and guardians realize their boys need male role models in their lives and ask for help. They try to match the boy and the man based on their interests and needs, Ostrander said.

One of the newest volunteers, Sue Agnew, is not a mentor, but is an assistant to Ostrander.

Agnew, of the Village of Liberty Park, learned about the program through her place of worship, Fairway Christian Church.

Ostrander spoke at the church and shared a list of problems young men have if they do not have a father figure. She was dismayed at the statistics that Ostrander, a retired police officer, shared.

“His research found that in the United States, 33 percent of children live without their father in the home,” Agnew said. “That was a staggering number for me.”

When he listed the problems the children have, including higher rates of suicide and drug abuse, Agnew knew she wanted to be involved.

“I am impressed at the ways the mentors interact with the boys,” Agnew said. “They give the boys opportunities they wouldn’t always have, such as flying a plane or scuba diving.”

Mentor Mark Ellis became involved after speaking with Ostrander and learning of the issues and problems boys can have in communities near The Villages.

When he retired and moved to the Village of La Belle, he expected to volunteer, but Ellis never expected to be mentoring two brothers, 12 and 14 years old, he said.

He never expected to be tubing down the Rainbow River or visiting a go-kart track either. In the past six months, there have been a lot of surprises in his life, thanks to his boys.

“The boys have me going places and doing things I wouldn’t have thought of doing,” Ellis said.

The organization serves about 18 boys. Each boy has a mentor, but now there are more mentors than boys, Ostrander said.

“We’re reaching out to the moms and grandmothers of fatherless boys and offering them our unique character-building and life-skills mentoring program.”

Agnew said she appreciated that all mentors undergo a background check and are screened and fingerprinted.

“We want to know and want the moms or guardians to know the boys will be safe,” Agnew said.

The mentors impart their Christian faith, but they also show the boys what it means to be virtuous by example, she said.

Dads for a Day instituted a virtue program this year, which is built around the boys learning and showing they understand the meaning of virtues such as love, faith, forgiveness, honesty and compassion. They earn coins for exemplifying the virtues they learn. As the boys move up in the program, they learn more, and the ideals become more complex.

To find out more about the program, call Dads for a Day Inc. at 352-571-8741 or visit dadsforaday.org.

Patricia Steele is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5387, or patricia.steele@thevillagesmedia.com.