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In our busy modern world, fathers often have trouble finding enough time to spend with their children. CPASS and the WVU Extension Service are looking to help change that with an ongoing program called iFather.

Its creators designed the program to not only increase the time fathers spend with their children but to also increase quality time, specifically by encouraging playtime between fathers and children. Launched at local Monongalia County elementary schools, this joint effort between CPASS and Extension kicked off their spring sessions at Skyview Elementary in March and have since held events at neighboring Ridgedale, Cheat Lake, Mountainview and Brookhaven schools.

The program is free and open to all fathers with students enrolled in pre-K through second grades at participating elementary schools. Byron Towner, CPASS clinical instructor and iFather activities coordinator, explains that fathers and their children begin by dividing into groups to participate in competitive activities.

Towner believes the sessions help increase fathers’ involvement with their children using a holistic approach. “We engage in activities that challenge the father and child physically, mentally, socially and emotionally,” Towner said.

Eric Murphy, WVU Extension agent and head coordinator of the iFather program, says that participants leave with an understanding of the importance of physical activity. “Play teaches children valuable lessons about relationships and the role of fathers,” Murphy said.

The program has received positive feedback from the local community, with volunteers from area high schools, fraternities, senior-citizen groups and wrestling clubs. “Once the community buys in, the sky is the limit as to how far the initiative will go,” Towner said.

Towner hopes to expand the iFather program to neighboring counties and, eventually, statewide.

Interested volunteers can contact Eric Murphy at the WVU Monongalia County Extension office at 304-291-7201.

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