David Perez could’ve looked around Saturday, from behind his shades in the summer sun, and seen even more of those moments.
He could’ve looked over the tug-o-war, the sack races, and the games of basketball, and heard the lively music that was washing out the sounds from the dunking booth, the water slides, and bounce castles — and he could’ve seen more of those flashing smiles, just like the ones he was sharing with his own sons.
Each of those moments, he said, were simply precious.
Perez and dozens of other fathers and their families enjoyed the fourth Day in the Park with Dad on Saturday at Wilkerson Boys and Girls Club Park, participating in an afternoon of family-focused fun put together by the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Permian Basin and UTPB’s Fatherhood Engagement Program.
Nearly 20 local vendors participated in the event, which brought dads, sons and daughters together to run, jump, slide, bounce, dunk, push, pull and play together during the month of Father’s Day.
“This is the best thing,” Perez could put it simply, before calling over his sons, Noah, 9, and Lane, 5. Noah’s favorite part of the day was the slides. Lane liked everything.
And for a father like Perez, being able to share that meant the world, he said. Perez said he is in his 13th year as an engineer with the U.S. Army, and he was spending part of a rare day pass to spend time with his sons, and he was grateful to have this event to bring them to.
“They have a little bit of everything,” Perez said of the event. “They got wet, and they got to dunk me. That’s pretty cool.”
Another father, Desmond Brooks, echoed more of the same after he stepped off the basketball court with his 13-year-old son Xavier Brooks.
Aside the inflated castles bouncing away in the park’s gym, the dunking booth and water slides around back, and the yard games next to vendor booths and food trucks on the main lawn, members of the Odessa Police Department ran and helped officiate a set of father-child two-on-two basketball games on the court.
“It’s really cool,” Desmond said. He is a former director with the Boys and Girls Clubs, but Saturday, came to just enjoy the day with his son as a participant. “To me, there’s a lot of emphasis made on Mother’s Day, but for fathers to be able to come out and have fun with their kids, and show that Father’s Day is just as important, it’s a big deal.”
Those two took advantage of that chance, and said they had fun.
“We did,” son Xavier agreed. “It’s really cool to hang out with my dad; play basketball.
“They did good,” he added, speaking of event organizers.
This Saturday’s marked the fourth such event for the organization, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Permian Basin associate director Misha Burleson said, but the first at Wilkerson, and the turnout marked a big success, she said.
“It’s just a day to celebrate dads and get the kids out here and create those memories with them,” Burleson said.
“It makes all of it worth it,” she added, on seeing families putting that quality time together after a lot of planning.
Kendahl Johnson, the coordinator for UTPB’s Fatherhood Engagement Program, said that on days like Saturday, even just a few hours together in the sun can make a big, positive impression on a family.
“I think sometimes fathers don’t really have that time or that opportunity to just have a day to spend with dad,” he said.
“This kind of gives them that environment that makes them know that dad is still cool, dad still cares. I can see relationships with their kids going to another level just because of a few hours of something like this. … That’s all it takes, is a couple of hours of just enjoying some time with dad.”