Father’s Day a YMCA tradition

This Sunday, June 19, when fathers across the country enjoy gifts and cards from their loved ones, most will be unaware that they are celebrating a holiday imagined by a grateful daughter and begun at a YMCA.

For a day of their own, fathers owe special thanks to a young woman named Sonora Louise Smart. In 1909, at a YMCA in Spokane, Washington, this dedicated daughter honored her father by calling for an annual Father’s Day.

The inspiration came to Ms. Smart while listening to a sermon celebrating Mother’s Day. She thought of her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, who had raised her and her five brothers after their mother died in childbirth. Smart thought of honoring fathers with religious services, special meals, small gifts and roses. She shared her idea with leaders at her local YMCA in Spokane Washington, who agreed, passing a resolution to observe a Father’s Day. The Spokane YMCA sponsored the first celebration on June 19, 1910, the month of William Smart’s birthday.

Today, Father’s Day is celebrated worldwide to recognize the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. This day celebrates fatherhood and male parenting. Although it is celebrated on a variety of dates worldwide, many countries including Canada, observe this day on the third Sunday in June.

“These days, fathers play an enormous role in the lives of their children,” says Brian Bratt, GM of Community Engagement for the YMCA of Niagara. “We see them daily, acting as coaches, teachers, role models and confidants; and our Y, as a leading community service organization is committed to supporting and reassuring them.”

Today’s fathers take a much more active role in raising their children, joining family activity nights, volunteering with their kids, arranging child care and participating in various YMCA programs. Fathers deserve this day of recognition more than ever before. And they deserve all the support that the YMCA and other community-based organizations can give them.

According to Statistics Canada, there are an estimated 4.2 million father in Canada. Nearly a quarter million men are primary caregivers to their children, and as many as 10% of them are stay-at-home dads. The number of fathers who are primary caregivers has risen from 1 in 100 families to 9 out of every 100 since 1976.

The YMCA of Niagara offers programs such as Summer Day Camps, Parent/Child Swim Classes, Community Youth Drop-Ins, as well as Employment and Newcomer Services, all designed to strengthen families.

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd died at the age of 96 but her legacy lives on. Today, Father’s Day is celebrated in over 165 countries worldwide including Canada.

“This Father’s Day, let’s celebrate and reach out to the supportive and nurturing fathers in our lives with a show of thanks,” says Bratt. “When we support parents, we begin to build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities”.

With files from the Kentucky Alliance of YMCA’s

Photo Source: ©iStockphoto.com/Debi Bishop


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