• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Game to benefit Northside Elementary Watch D.O.G.S.

Northside Elementary School parent Steve Reed appreciates being able to spend a day with his six-year-old daughter Piper, her classmates and other students. Being there for his daughter and the other students on an ongoing basis has been a rewarding experience for this dad, who began volunteering in the program when his daughter started preschool a year ago. He hopes to continue with Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) as long as he has that opportunity. "I can walk down the hall with my daughter holding her hand," Reed said, "and the next thing I know I've got five or six kids all wanting to hold my hand." He regularly reminds Piper that she has to learn how to share her dad with other students. The Watch D.O.G.S. program allows Reed, other dads, granddads and uncles to connect with students as positive adult male role models. "Children need to know that people care about them in order to be able to learn to their full potential," said guidance counselor Sherry Basore, who coordinates Northside's Watch D.O.G.S. program. "They share smiles. They ask how their day's going. They make personal connections with these students." Northside Elementary School will host a basketball game pitting its Watch D.O.G.S. against a team of Versailles Police officers on Thursday, Feb. 23, from 6 to 7 p.m. in its gym. Proceeds from admission ($3 for adults and $1 for children) and concession sales will support Northside's Watch D.O.G.S. and its guidance counseling program. Versailles Police Lt. Michael Fortney said his department regularly partners with schools in order to build positive relationships with students and their parents. "We're not there in an official capacity. We're there to have fun with the kids, parents and teachers," said Fortney. A father of three, he volunteers in the Watch D.O.G.S. program at Huntertown Elementary so he understands how they are making a difference as mentors in schools across the district. "It really invests back in the kids," he added. Advance tickets for the upcoming basketball game fundraiser at Northside Elementary will be sold by classes, with the top-sellers (in primary grades and third to fifth grades) receiving pizza parties. Also, children can win prizes during halftime of the ballgame. The opposing teams were invited to create friendly "trash talk" videos leading up to their game. One of the players on the VPD team is allegedly 6-foot-11, but "I don't think he's quite that tall," Reed said. Now in its third year at Northside Elementary, Basore said Watch D.O.G.S. has attracted a growing number of dads, granddads and other adult male role models who want to volunteer. They've helped out on Grandparents' Day and High Attendance Day, during the school carnival, and other special events, she said. Basore calls them Northside's superstars because students "light up" when they see Watch D.O.G.S. in school - whether they see them in the cafeteria, gym, hallway or classroom. On Mondays, the Watch D.O.G.S. play basketball, but more importantly share information about the volunteer program with others who may want to become adult role models at Northside. By bringing the community into the school and working as a team with parents and other adult family members, Basore said, "We're showing (people in our community) that it's not just about teachers and not just about students. It's also about getting the community involved." She credited parent Jeremiah Johnson, a local pastor and author, for helping her launch and coordinate the Watch D.O.G.S. program at Northside Elementary. His son, Ethan, is a Northside fifth-grader.

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