Nonprofit View: In recognition of Awesome Dads

Deleting good pictures from my phone is tough. Scrolling through the other day I found a picture from our mother-daughter event held last summer. In it, a father named Scott and his young son were working side-by-side to construct stage props for the show later in the day. They were surrounded by chords, loops and springs, along with smiles, laughter and bantering among the volunteers

I was struck by the example that Scott and the other fathers were setting not only for their sons, but for the rest of their family as well. They modeled hard work, healthy relationships, service to others, mixed it with a little confusion, and of course, lots of fun — all in the name of loving their families as well as others from across the region who would attend.


These are awesome dads, I thought to myself.

Fast forward to this winter. Not on my phone, but in the headlines, a deluge of tragic stories and photographs chronicled the nightmares of multiple school shootings. Once again, I was overcome, both as a parent of a teen, but also a member of my community who cares about what’s happening to families. The elephant in the room in most mass shootings is the sickening impact of fatherlessness and the breakdown of the home.

A good read on the topic is “The Boy Crisis,” by Dr. Warren Farrell.

Several years ago, with an eye on being proactive in our efforts to strengthen families, MREC created a “Dynamite Dad” contest for students. The purpose was to raise awareness of the impact of fathers on child-well being. Our vehicle was a simple entry written by students to their dads. Judges picked the winners and the kids honored their dads at a special celebration. Talk about impact — there were few dry eyes once the kids started sharing. Their message was clear: time, doing things together with dad, mattered most.

We stopped the contest because it became too large to manage, but with all the negative headlines families are getting, we brought the contest out of mothballs, this time calling it the Awesome Dad Contest. We gathered judges from around the county, and yesterday, Father’s Day, we announced the winners.

K-2 winner: Aylssa Basore, kindergarten, Mount Airy. Honorable mentions: Lorgan Morrill, first grade, Mount Airy and Lily Heise, first grade, Union Bridge.

3-5 winner: Marissa Ossinger, fifth grade, New Windsor. Honorable mentions: Grace Smith, third grade, Sykesville and Enya Sliwinski, fifth grade, Sykesville.

6-8 winner: Alice Roche, seventh grade, Littlestown, Pa. Honorable mention: Ethan Fried, sixth grade, Taneytown

9-15 winner: Elena Escotti, 12th grade, Finksburg. Honorable mentions: Molly Fried, 11th grade, Taneytown and Katie Fried, ninth grade, Taneytown.

On Friday, Aug. 10, at TownMall of Westminster, we’ll celebrate these fathers, and recognize all participants with a special t-shirt thanks to our underwriter Crouse Ford. And, once again, the winners will present their entries to the dads. By the way: The things that were important to kids a few years ago, are the same things that matter today: Time, doing things together with their dads. Details can be found on our website

And dads/guardians, whether or not your kids entered the contest, remember this: the days are long but the years are short, so go play, read with, call or just hang out with your kids. You’re awesome in their eyes.

Amy M. Gilford is the executive director of the Marriage & Relationship Education Center. Reach her at 410-386-9003 or email