You’ve probably seen these hardworking men many times, usually after a major special event, as they pick up trash others left behind.
This cleanup crew has been spotted in trucks behind the bicyclists in the MS-150 ride from Frisco to Fort Worth, and following behind horses with their shovels, scooping up the poop during the old Chisholm Trail Roundup in the Fort Worth Stockyards.
They can be seen sometimes working until dawn filling large plastic bags and hauling away barrels of debris long after festival-goers have gone home and gone to sleep.
These men contract with event sponsors to do the dirty work during and after activities that attract large crowds, and they get paid well for their services.
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But the money they make, they don’t keep.
It all goes to an elementary school in southwest Fort Worth that has benefited from the generosity of these dads for three decades.
The Sugar Daddies, as they are known, started at Bruce Shulkey Elementary in 1984 as the school prepared to celebrate its annual “Doughnuts for Daddies” event.
Paul McCallum’s second-grade daughter asked if he could also take a friend of hers who did not have a father available.
A group of fathers came together to devote time and energy to help the school with fundraising by rolling up their sleeves and going to work doing cleanup chores in Sundance Square and the Stockyards.
They now do about 15 events a year in Fort Worth, Addison, Frisco and Dallas.
At this year’s “Donuts with Dads” (as it’s now known), the Sugar Daddies commemorated their 30th anniversary.
On hand to help them celebrate were Fort Worth City Councilman Jungus Jordan, state Rep. Craig Goldman and school board member Ann Sutherland.
The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday night issued a proclamation honoring the group, declaring Friday “Sugar Daddies Day” in the city.
Also there to celebrate the occasion was Jerry Cullum, one of the original members of the group who had two children in the school at the time.
Those two kids are now 35 and 33, he said.
The group’s motto is “For our kids; for their future,” said John Gonzales, immediate past president of Sugar Daddies, who has a fifth-grader at Shulkey.
Gonzales noted that many of the dads, like Cullum and Matt Menger, have kids who have now graduated from college, but they still care enough about the school and the children to keep coming back to help out.
“Over the years we’ve usually had a core of about a dozen or so folk, but at one time or another 1,300 men [fathers, uncles, grandfathers, older brothers] have worked events,” said member Mark Metroka. “A conservative estimate of volunteer hours is 50,000. We’ve been ‘dads’ to over 15,000 students.”
The money raised — almost three-quarters of a million dollars — has been used for many different things, including playground equipment, pavilions on the campus, benches, a sprinkler system, winter coats for kids who needed them, teachers’ supplies not included in the school budget and new curtains for the auditorium.
It’s always good to see fathers at school with their children, as was the case at Shulkey last Friday morning.
But it’s especially gratifying to meet a group of fathers, including those who no longer have school-age children, still giving so much of themselves for the benefit of other kids and a very special school.