Annual event promotes family time and fitness

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Dozens of people participated in the annual “Dad, Let’s Ride, Let’s Walk” event at McMillen Park on Sunday afternoon. Organizers said it works to get families, particularly fathers and their children, more physically active in recreational settings.

“It’s very important to have outdoor time. I think any time a dad is involved with his kids, it helps them become successful in whatever they try to do because the more interaction you have with your child, the less likely they’ll get into delinquent behavior,” McMillen Community Center Supervisor Andre Patterson said.

A Fort Wayne police officer started the program in 2011. Officer Diane Rogers said doing outdoor activities together provides fathers and their children with much needed quality time.

“Walking and talking with your children and riding your bike with your children is awesome. It’s a beautiful thing to see. For the children to know that they can keep up with their dad and then for the dads to give their children that inspiration and let them know that they are there to protect them and the children can come to them and talk to them and share things with them to build a healthy relationship,” Rogers said.

The day started with presentations from Fort Wayne Parks and Trails. From there, fathers and their children got a police escort through McMillen Park and along the southeast side of town. They could either ride their bikes together or walk together.

Shon Phoenix and his two sons, Zeion and Rashon, were first-time riders in Sunday’s event. The boys live in Indianapolis, but get to spend summers with their dad in Fort Wayne. Phoenix said he cherishes days like Sunday.

“It’s lovely just to get to ride through the neighborhood. He gets to ride in the street. They love that for some reason. So, getting a chance to do it in a safe environment for a chance because he’s just learning how to ride his bike,” Phoenix said.

They are just one of the dozens of families who benefited from the ride and walk.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling to have a son and a grandson in your life and exercise with them,” Jerome Reed said.

“It’s really fun. I appreciate it,” first-time rider Devin Ervin said. “We get the feeling of having fun with the community.”

Organizers hope the event inspires fathers and their children to make being active a priority in their lives.

“It’s more than just a bike ride or a walk. It’s actually engaging and being involved and it’s family time. It brings families together,” Patterson said.

Organizers said events like this can have a lasting impact on the families.

“I see a lot of fathers interacting more after being in this event with their kids. You see them out here riding their bikes together. You see them walking as families together, and I think it all starts with this event,” Patterson said.

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