Being a dad is no easy task.
But with Father’s Day coming up on Sunday, patriarchs finally get their annual day in the sun, a day to celebrate families and the men who make them work.
Turlock’s Edgar Perez knows a thing or two about how tough it is to be a dad. As a single father of three, he works hard to spend time with his kids, something he calls the greatest joy in his life.
On Friday, Edgar Perez brought his twin 3-year-old boys, Michael and Christian, and 4-year-old daughter Cecilia, to run through the water at Broadway Park. It’s just a part of his fatherly duties, another challenge of entertaining children on a sweltering summer day.
The difficulties of fatherhood have long been known, but it wasn’t until 1994 that neighboring Merced County made a unified stand to support dads. A then-Merced council member attended a leadership conference and came back with a plan: to develop a support system to help dads, to celebrate them, and to inspire more fathers to play an active role in their children’s lives.
Many kids may think of dad as the guy who gets up in the morning, leaves, comes home at night and sits on the couch watching TV, Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo said. On the weekend, he mows the lawn, perhaps.
But dads are about much more than that, he continued. While dads don’t always sit down and explicitly hand out life lessons, they are always supporting their children, letting them learn and picking them up when they fall.
“You learn a lot of stuff from your dad,” Pedrozo said. “You always look to your dad for strength and support.”
That role can’t be understated, Pedrozo continued. Without fathers, kids are more likely to have poor school performance, become involved with gangs and use drugs.
So Merced County opened an office called All Dads Matter through its Health Services Agency, offering help to fathers in need of some advice, or a helping hand with the trials and tribulations of fatherhood.
And to truly celebrate those outstanding fathers, Merced County started another program: The Merced County Father of the Year Competition.
“We really felt like really exemplary dads in our county needed to be recognized,” said Paul Lundberg, organizer of the competition.
It’s a simple notion. Children are asked to write a 300-word essay about their fathers. A winner and two runner-ups are selected from kindergarten through 10th grade, and the children and their fathers are recognized at a banquet.
This year, the essay contest drew almost 1,000 entries – a new record. And on Thursday, the children and fathers were recognized with a banquet at the Castle Science and Technology Center in Atwater
Some fathers are truly unaware of how kids feel about them until they arrive at the event and read their children’s essays, organizers said. And even those who do know are still awed by the experience.
“When I was honored at the 2010 awards, I was humbled,” said Jason Ralls, 2010 Merced County Father of the Year. “What better thing could you be involved in than being a good father?”
This year’s third grade winner Nasier Muldrow, of McSwain Elementary, wrote about how his dad –a former Marine – is strong and disciplined, but also a great smoothie-maker, basketball partner and Scrabble opponent. Ninth grade winner Conner Hoppe, of Golden Valley High School, wrote about how his father, the pastor at Faith Bible Church, helps him in his spiritual walk with God.
Spencer Fluetsch, a Mc Swain Elementary fifth grader, nominated his father, Doug Fluetsch, for their special 17-mile bike rides with his dad, trips to the mountain and volunteer efforts to clean up graffiti.
For that, Doug Fluetsch, was named 2011 Merced County Father of the Year. He was near speechless as his name was called, but thanked everyone and made sure to credit the good example set by his own dad, who was able to be present at Thursday’s ceremony.
Son Spencer – eager to read his speech to the audience – was far from speechless as he beamed with pride.
“Me and my dad love to be together,” Spencer Fluetsch said.
For more information on Merced County Father of the Year, visit
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