SUMMERVILLE—The annual oyster roast and cook-out thrown by the Summerville Catholic Fathers Association has quickly become a huge success, just like the group itself.
The club was started three years ago by Travis Piscitelli, who was looking for a way for dads to be more involved with school life. They tackled several projects and quickly established an easy camaraderie, leading Piscitelli to realize “we’re more than just a work crew so let’s try to put on an event.”
He said the oyster roast was never meant to be a fundraiser; it was simply a way to say thank you to the teachers and staff, who get in free. But in just its second year, they netted enough to buy the school its own grill — saving the cost of renting one for every function — and this year brought in another $500-$700 that they’ll put toward improvements.
Lisa Tanner, principal, said all schools have involved parent volunteers, but Summerville Catholic may be the only one whose fathers are organized into a dedicated work force. The oyster roast is their biggest event, but it’s far from the only thing they do.
They helped renovate the science lab by ripping out the heavy, old tables, repainted the swing sets and shoveled sand on the playground. A number of dads also volunteer as coaches for sports at the school.
Tanner said all she has to do is email Piscitelli and before she knows it, there’s a dad at the school, ready to build stage props for a play or grill burgers for a picnic.
“It’s an opportunity for the dads to get to know each other on many levels, and it brings the whole family to be more involved in the school,” Tanner said.
It was the perfect ice-breaker into a new community for Jack Collins. A member of the U.S. Navy, Collins said he, his wife Kelley and two young children move often and struggle to start fresh each time. The fathers association has been a wonderful experience for everyone, and helped ease their transition to a new place.
He’s been a member for three years, and said the group has become like family.
“I’ve met the guys I’d consider to be my closest personal friends,” he said, adding that the wives and children have all bonded too.
Piscitelli said the group has a core membership of about 15 dads who come to everything, and about 25 who help at big events.
He said there are a lot of moms at the school who make time to volunteer during the day, but noted that dads have a tougher time carving out volunteer hours in the workday. So he wanted to create a group for those dads, so they could contribute in the afternoons and evenings, or as a family on weekends.
“We hope it gets bigger and better every year,” he said.