"He teaches me how to ride a bike. He's very good at catching me when I fall."
"My dad gave up becoming a famous baseball player so he could raise me. He also makes the best tasting tacos I know."
"My dad is my role model. Without him, I would have never written this essay."
"I love my dad. He made sure I got a 2.45 GPA."
These are just a few of the heart-felt, and sometimes humorous lines in the 4,500 essays read by volunteers at the on Friday, April 13. About 50 residents joined to support the Chicago White Sox 2012 Illinois Fatherhood Essay Contest by giving their time to read and judge essays.
Led by David Hirsch, director of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, the volunteer group took a first stab at culling down some 18,000 essays from kindergartners to high school students throughout the state.
"It's great to see so many new faces this year," Hirsch said, who has been organizing the contest for 15 years. "One of the goals of IFI is to celebrate dads who simply choose to be there for their son or daughter. The contest is an opportunity to showcase some of those dads through the eyes of their children."
The top 156 essay writers will be invited with their fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers or father figures and their families to a Chicago White Sox game outing. From that group, 12 essay contestants will be selected for the Fatherhood Dinner Celebration on June 14 at the Union League Club. The dinner also will host honorary dads including Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears, Earl Jones of Clear Channel Communications, Troy Murray of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Art Norman of NBC 5.
"Illinois Fatherhood Initiative highlights the tremendous impact fathers have on the lives of their children," said volunteer Nancy Davis, who has read essays for the past 15 years. "I'm so happy to have the opportunity to participate in the essay reading each year."
"I'm here because my dad is one of my personal heroes," volunteer David Waring said. "He's 86 years old, and I'm so lucky to still have him."
Barrington Hills resident and past honorary Father of the Year, Joe Ahern returned for his second essay-reading session.
"Reading these essays from all over the state is a real eye-opener," Ahern said. "It reminds us that for families in economically challenged neighborhoods, something as simple as a father's presence in their lives makes all the difference in the world."
Lunch for the two-hour event was provided by Wool Street Bar & Grill.