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Helping Us Do More

We wanted to write something nice for all the dads out there taking the time and making the effort to teach their children how to live a healthy lifestyle. Highlighting all the great things all the great dads have done seemed like the best way; however, there are a lot of great dads and minimal space on a blog. So we chose one dad who is close to our organization and highlighted the great things he is doing as a thank you to him as well as all the wonderful father and father-figures out there.

Donald Lucente, is one of our Healthy Schools Program Ambassadors. He’s a special education teacher. And he’s a dad.

As an Ambassador, Donnie is a leader in the field of school health and innovates and promotes solutions to improve nutrition and increase physical activity in his school community and around the nation. But it wasn’t until he became a father that he re-examined some of his behaviors and started thinking more about his role to support childhood health, starting with his family.

Fatherhood—that moment in time when you become a responsible party to the shaping of a life or lives—seems to be quite the inspiration to live healthier. At home, Donnie now eats the foods he wants his kids to eat. He also cooks those foods to help ignite conversations about why they are nutritious, and why nutrition matters.

Being a teacher, Donnie made a connection between his role as an educator in the classroom and his role as an educator in the home – curiosity. He cultivates this curiosity with the right exposure to healthy foods and activities that generate questions, spark conversations, and help one stumble upon answers that kids can remember for a lifetime.

Sometimes a conversation could be no more than the repeated “why” from a child and the repeated “because…” from a parent. But if that Q&A leaves children knowing a little bit more about their health and that their parents care about their health, then we think it is irreplaceable and thank all our fathers who’ve endured and initiated those conversations with us.

Donnie, like most fathers, is motivated by the fact that you can make a difference every day and every difference matters. He and his family are conscientious about the patterns of their day-to-day lifestyles, like walking to the store, stopping at the park on the way home from school, and creating a bedtime routine that encourages adequate sleep.

At their house they have a garden, compost pile, recycling bins, and a worm vermicomposter. This exposes his sons to the process of growing and eating food from the earth. The comings and goings around the house are filled with physical activity like river walks, hiking, and community explorations. This shows his sons that physical activity isn’t a chore but a natural part of everyday life. Donnie and his son have even created an indoor activity game called “couch to dishwasher.” The rules – well, basically you name a place in the house, run to touch it, and run back. When his kids were younger the game helped build vocabulary, and now that they are older it is more of an obstacle course filled with big, bad challenges.

And obstacle courses filled with big, bad challenges keep us moving when we’re young and teach us how to overcome obstacles that try to keep us from moving as we get older.

These are just the small things that Donnie and other fathers do to make sure we’re happy, healthy, and strong. But it is the small things that empower us to do the big things for ourselves later in life.

Thank you to all the fathers and father-figures who have helped us do more.

Check out the Be Well Book to read more about Donnie and other dads, moms, and caregivers serving as role models to their kids.

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