Part of a crowd of about 100 participating in RESTORE Inc.’s first Fatherhood Walk turns onto Cherry Street chanting about the need for fathers to take an active part in their children’s lives.
When Chuck Ealey, a University of Toledo football star of the early 1970s, addressed about 100 people at a rally Saturday morning outside Central Catholic High School, he spoke little of his gridiron exploits.
His preferred topic: active fatherhood.
“It’s a responsibility. If you’re blessed with the opportunity to produce a child, there is a responsibility you shouldn’t be able to walk away from,” Mr. Ealey told a crowd of men, women, and a few children who participated in RESTORE Inc.’s first Fatherhood Walk, an event the organization plans to stage annually.
“It’s important that we, as men, look after and support our kids,” he said in a postspeech interview.
Mark Robinson, who founded the nonprofit RESTORE in 2006 to promote fathers’ involvement in children’s lives, said he began planning the walk in October to raise community awareness of the importance of active fatherhood.
“Fatherhood doesn’t look like what it did 100 years ago,” Mr. Robinson said in his opening address. “We need to remind fathers of their original purpose, their original identity.”
After the opening address, the walkers took to the pavement, clad in sneakers and T-shirts from one of the event’s sponsors, McDonald’s. Although the program scheduled the registrants to begin a one-mile walk to raise awareness of the importance of a father’s role in child development at 10 a.m., participants traveled two miles — what Mr. Robinson called a “Jesus Mile.”
Citing a biblical passage, Mr. Ealey said, “If your brother asks you to walk a mile, go two.”
Representatives of Fatherhood Walk sponsors — including the YMCA of Greater Toledo, Lourdes College, and State Farm Insurance — were stationed in the school parking lot, where they greeted participants both before and after the two-mile journey.
Chuck Ealey, a UT football star of the 1970s, says it’s important for men to support their children.
“I used sports as a vehicle to get an education,” Mr. Ealey said in his address. “The end product of the education, not the sport, got me where I am.”
Mr. Ealey led UT football to 35 straight victories during his collegiate career, then quarterbacked the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats to the Grey Cup game during his rookie season as a professional.
Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio, another sponsor, provided participants with information about family resources they offer, including the financial stability advocacy program, Financial Learning Academy, and individual and family counseling.
Celine Woods of Lucas County Children Services passed out “pledge cards” urging fathers to commit to increasing their level of involvement in their children’s lives. About 40 men took cards, with many taking more to pass to friends and coworkers, Ms. Woods said.
Mr. Robinson and rally sponsors said they hope 100 participants is just a starting point for the Fatherhood Walk, with greater turnouts in future years.
“This is something that has been much needed for a long time,” Mr. Robinson said. “I think if we make this an annual event, this will grow every year.”
“We’ve always heard it takes a community to raise a child,” said Jon Harris, a Toledo McDonald’s franchisee and event sponsor. “That’s what this [event] is.”