EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Friday August 12 marked the first day of full classrooms for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation. It also marked the return of an annual initiative in the city, known as the Million Fathers March.

“I think it’s vital, because you never know what the kids are going through,” explains Pastor Timothy Simmons with Bread of Life Kingdom Ministries.

Evansville’s Commission on the Social Status of African-American Males helped organize the event. It was designed to give fathers or father figures the opportunity to escort their children to their first day of school.

“They need something coming into school,” says Pastor Timothy. “School’s not easy, there’s a lot of pressure. But when you have smiling faces and you’re able to see the people that will engage you, I think it makes a world of difference.”

“I think it’s really great for them to come out and encourage them and be present and have those smiles on their faces,” says Lodge Community School Principal Amy Bonenberger.

Lodge was joined by Lincoln Elementary and Glenwood Leadership Academy as Evansville schools participating in the nationwide initiative. Principal Bonenberger says this was the first year for the march since the pandemic began.

“Our kids need to see that adults believe in them,” says Bonenberger. “I think it’s really hard to have confidence these days.”

The Million Fathers March not only provided a positive start to the morning, but Pastor Timothy says it also provides a positive impact to the children’s lives long after the start of the school day.

“The pledge is just to say that I’m willing to drop my kid off, I’m willing to be in their life, not only at the beginning of school, but throughout the school year,” explains Pastor Timothy.

Both Bonenberger and Simmons have words of advice for other communities that may be planning to join in on the Million Fathers March in the future.

“I say get on board, because you don’t know the impact you’re making,” says Simmons.

“Don’t hesitate,” says Bonenberger. “Nobody is ever going to have any harm come to them by having more people involved in their lives.”