It was back in 1997, and Mark Merrill had an idea. In the midst of the successful parenting organization Family First, founded in 1991 by he and his wife Susan, Merrill wanted to create an organization that was centered around fatherhood. A father of five children, he and close friend Tony Dungy, then head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and father of seven children himself, initially discussed the idea in Dungy’s Buccaneer office.
“[Tony] had a real desire to figure out how to help men to be better dads,” said Merrill.
It was in that office that All Pro Dad was born. It started small. But today the organization has grown to 931 chapters in 48 states and nine countries.
“Men are really stepping up their game over the last decade and becoming more involved with their kids’ lives and not just leaving the parenting up to the moms,” said Merrill. “Men are really showing a commitment with their time and energy and everything they have to become better dads.”
Next month, All Pro Dad enters into a new frontier, with All Pro Dad Live, a day-long event just for fathers featuring Dungy, University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt and comedian Jeff Foxworth as keynote speakers.
The purpose of the event is to share some laughs and for each dad to walk away with some specific things he can do to become a better father.
Though the fatherhood organization has hosted more than 70 “Father & Kids Experiences” since 2002 at NFL and MLB practice facilities and stadiums across the country, this is the first event just for dads.
Merrill says the organization needed an avenue where dads can come together to discuss the more thought-provoking aspects of what being a father and husband truly means.
“We’ve been encouraged about the dads and kids getting together, but there are times when it’s great to pull those fathers aside and really talk deeply to them. The ‘Live’ event is going to be a lot of fun but it’s going to be more serious in terms of the depth we go into to become all pro dads.”
This inaugural “All Pro Dads Live” event will be held at the Long Forum at the Greater Atlanta Christian School on Saturday, August 23 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tickets are on sale starting at $49, with special packages allowing premiere access to co-hosts, Mark Richt, Tony Dungy and Jeff Foxworthy are also available on a limited basis.
Other notable attendees scheduled to appear are Heisman trophy winners Charlie Ward and Danny Wuerfful, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer General Manager and current ESPN NFL Insider Mark Dominik and Fox News anchor Bret Baier, who also authored the new book Special Heart.
For more information on All Pro Dads Live please visit www.allprodadlive.com.
Daddyhood will be there. Look for us!