All Pro Dad program brings Keene's Crossing Elementary children, dads together

The All Pro Dad program at Keene’s Crossing Elementary aims to bring students and their dads closer together and teach valuable life lessons.

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  • | 1:41 p.m. January 16, 2019
  • Southwest Orange
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Children giggled as they were instructed to line up across from their dads in the cafeteria at Keene’s Crossing Elementary.

Pumped up with sugar from breakfast, they were excited for the challenge at hand. The challenge? To try and break the “dad wrist lock.”

The fathers were lined up across from their children, hands gripping wrists as they created a bond representing loyalty. Going down the line, one grade at a time, the students were to try anything they could to break this bond — but, like true loyalty, it wasn’t easily broken.

It might have been an early morning, but dads and their children seemed awake and mutually excited to spend time eating, laughing and learning together. It’s part of the All Pro Dad program that a couple of fathers recently began at KCE.



The program encourages fathers to embrace who they are and inspire them to be the best husbands and fathers they can be. The goal is to provide guidance and tips for raising children in a positive, life-giving way.

It is a branch of Family First, a Tampa-based nonprofit organization that was launched in 1997 by Mark Merrill with the help of former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy. All Pro Dad is centered on a football theme, and NFL players, coaches and alumni regularly partner with it to speak about the importance of being a good father.

The APD chapters provide opportunities for dads to spend time with their children and foster stronger relationships, while also benefitting schools and communities. APD currently has more than 1,000 chapters nationwide, each of which hosts a monthly breakfast and learning opportunity. 

When Horizon West residents and neighbors Bryan Fifer and Jason Diehl were introduced to APD, they knew they wanted to start a chapter at their children’s school.

“I’ve seen a lot of billboards (for the program) driving around, and my aunts put me in contact with the book by Tony Dungy, who’s one of the founders,” Diehl said. “I started reading that, and seeing some of his morals that he tries to instill, it’s amazing that he can communicate so well. … It’s good, and we’re excited to be able to start them young and build that up.”

Fifer was introduced to the concept after attending an All Pro Dad’s Day event at the Citrus Bowl a few years ago, and as he learned more about the program he knew he wanted to bring it to KCE. 

“Jason and I are good friends and neighbors, so we talked about it, kicked it around and said, ‘Let’s start it for our school,’” he said. “That’s really how it came to life, and then when we got connected with (Assistant Principal) Sam (Davis), he was all about it.”

Davis was familiar with APD from previously working at a Title I school. He loved the program for its promotion of mentorship and positive character traits.

“Jason and Bryan got in contact with me, and when I saw All Pro Dad I was like, ‘Yes, let’s go!’” Davis said. “I’ve seen the impact it can have when you pair up with an organization that has the same values as the school. It just reinforces what we’re trying to do here in the community and in school. All Pro Dad has a great guidance and support system in place that provides standards and all of that ties to student achievement. Anything we can to do increase student achievement, we’re all about.”


Bryan Fifer, Jordan Baszner, Brandon Palm, Assistant Principal Sam Davis and Jason Diehl love hosting the All Pro Dad program at Keene’s Crossing Elementary.
Bryan Fifer, Jordan Baszner, Brandon Palm, Assistant Principal Sam Davis and Jason Diehl love hosting the All Pro Dad program at Keene’s Crossing Elementary.

At KCE, the APD breakfast program is held the second Wednesday of each month. During the most recent event on Wednesday, Jan. 9, the topic of discussion was loyalty.

Each event begins with a welcome and “shout out what you’re proud about.”

This exercise requires each dad to find another dad they don’t know and introduce their children. During each introduction, the dad must find a specific reason he is proud of his child and say it out loud so the child can hear it.

“It’s building the kids’ confidence, because they’re hearing their dad say, ‘I’m proud of you because of this,’ but it’s also kind of secretly teaching the dads and telling them, ‘Hey, continue to build your kids up by finding ways to encourage them,’” Fifer said. 

“It’s important because we can say it in our homes and everything, but out in the public, if we show that appreciation and tell them it means the world to them,” Diehl said. “It means (to your child) that, ‘OK, maybe they do care and they do want you to be the best that you can,’ and you see that light up their faces.”

In addition to breakfast, the program includes a short video that summarizes and explains the topic or character trait of the week. This is followed by a fun activity that helps children and their fathers visualize and better understand the lesson.

“There’s studies that show that the more you have parents involved, the better the achievement of a student,” Davis said. “It reinforces what we’re teaching and helps make better citizens and a better environment all around.”

The program at Keene’s Crossing launched in September 2018. 

Additionally, there are three other fathers in addition to Fifer and Diehl who volunteer to help run the program. The goal is to eventually have at least one volunteer for every 10 families who attend. Any KCE dads interested in learning more about or volunteering for APD can contact Fifer and Diehl through the “All Pro Dad — Keene’s Crossing” Facebook page.


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