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Happy Father's Day: 3 local dads share their stories of fatherhood

Dads in the media are often portrayed as bumbling buffoons who have no idea where their children are, what they’re interested in or when their birthdays might be. But the truth of the matter is that dads are some amazing human beings. 

Fathers aren’t just the men who biologically create a person, but the men who step up and play a vital role in the raising of children. They’re not babysitters while mom is out; they are parents. They are not gone for work all day; they are providing for their family. They kiss boo-boos, scare aware closet monsters and protect their families with ferocity. 

We may not be able to pick our fathers. Maybe they tell terrible dad jokes. Maybe they don’t understand their child’s obsession with Taylor Swift. But dads love their families much more than we give them credit for. 

This month, dads, may your grills be hot, your cooler full and your family adoring. Happy Father’s Day.

Twenty years ago, B. Kelly Walker realized that many men did not know how to be proper fathers because they had missed out on having a good father role model in their lives. He founded the Upstate Fatherhood Coalition in Greenville in 1999. Since then, the organization has expanded all across the Upstate and has helped thousands of fathers.

“We show men how to step into their role,” Walker said. “They understand what a father is, but they don’t have an example to follow.” 

A father himself of grown children, Walker was a teacher and a coach when he realized the need for giving men a hand up when it comes to being a dad. He said many families he encountered only had moms, no dads. He felt called to help men who had never seen what a father was supposed to do.

It’s not just young fathers who are helped by the coalition. According to Walker, the average man who participates in the program is 33 years old. In 2018, over 800 men were served, with 1,800 children impacted. 

Walker said his own children are involved with the Upstate Fatherhood Coalition as well. He has taken his daughters to halfway houses to meet people, and they created a fatherhood game when they were younger. Now they volunteer with their father.

“They keep me going,” he said. “They’re part of the movement.” 

It truly is a family affair for Walker. He said every person who goes through the program is family and he loves seeing them end up happy and healthy.

Kevin Marsh has been a father since 2003 and a physics and engineering teacher since 2007. He has three daughters ages 15, 11 and 8. 

Marsh said the ability to be able to shift gears quickly comes in very handy both in the classroom and at home, as circumstances can change in an instant. Both his family and his job have taught him to have incredible amounts of patience. With three active girls, life is always on the go for the Marsh family.

“It is always a challenge to not bring too much work home from school,” he said. “My children deserve every bit of my time that I can give them. At the same time, it is important that my students know that I care about them by designing lessons that can keep them interested.”

But Marsh is quick to point out that time with family is precious and should never be taken for granted. He said while it’s important to provide for his family, his relationship with his wife and daughters is more important than anything else. 

Marsh noted that the roles of father and mother are becoming more and more blended as time passes. Parenting is a two-person job and he feels that children should see adults working together toward a common goal.

“It is important that our children see that healthy relationships require communication and compromise,” he said.

Returning to work after his daughter was born prematurely and still in the NICU prompted Robert Whitney to make drastic changes in his career. He decided to turn his side job as a videographer into a full-time career by opening his own business, Front Row Films. 

He now does videography for weddings and businesses, which allows him to work from home so he can be with his family more often. And the payoff was worth the change, according to Whitney.

“I stay very busy, but I also get to stay home with my beautiful daughter and wife,” he said. “I was able to be there when she crawled for the first time and when she learned to stand up.”

 Whitney said he has wanted to be a family man his entire life and he feels very blessed to be a husband and father. He and his wife went through a few years of infertility, so being a first time father has been especially wonderful for him.

Time management as a work-at-home dad, however, is a must. Whitney said he has learned to make phone calls and reply to emails during naptime and he often works late into the night so he can be both a family man and a business owner.

“I work for myself so I can take those afternoons and go to the park with my family,” he said. “I just have to make sure it doesn’t become every afternoon.”

Whitney encourages all dads to set their goals high. He thought he might not ever be a father, and he is. He thought he would never get to see his family with his previous job, and now he’s working from home.