Spark in teen suicides ignites a match for JoCo fathers to get involved in their kids’ lives

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LEAWOOD, Kan. -- The rate of teenage suicides is startling, and many parents are searching for any opportunity to understand why.

"With tears in his eyes, he told me we are loosing kids," said Vince Stephens, founder of Father's Club. "The principal of Blue Valley High School is a great man who loves those kids, and he told me about the effect on the community when a student commits suicide."

That's how the idea came about to create a group, Stephens said.

"It was just an idea, and then it grew to nine men and now 13 months later, we have over 300 members," he said smiling. "We developed life skills, classes where we talk to kids about how to interview, tie a tie, walk upright and not look at your phone all day."

Stephens said the Father's Club is all about showing up.

"I went through my 16-year-old son's phone," he said, pausing to collect himself. "I had never looked at it before, and I discovered that I didn’t have the relationship with my own son that I should have. I’ve leaned to be intentional about loving my own son, asking the tough questions and being available for him and not just leaving that to mom. I make a difference in his life."

This group of men also has a heavy emphasis on being more involved in their students' lives at school, socially and educationally.

"There is a real thirst for this kind of engagement," said Randy Bratton, director of campus growth and development. "We have on-boarded all of the Blue Valley High Schools in under a year, and we’ve had multiple inquiries from other schools as well."

Bratton said the group's symbol, located on their webpage, represents the shield they provide for their children and families. He said the foundation of Father's Club is trust.

"There is a real interest in dads getting more engaged, and I think our jobs is to provide easy on-ramps for these dads, whether it's 20 minutes a month or weekly. Dad’s want to be more involved with their schools, and our job is to make that easier."

The next meeting for Father's Club is a celebration at at Hilltop Conference Center at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20. You don't have to be a member to attend, but the club is encouraging more men to get involved.

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