Dads, doughnuts and the NFL

| April 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

Former Vikings quarterback pays visit to Savage school

Joe Osterbauer greets former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon at St. John the Baptist School in Savage April 6 at an event called “Dads and Donuts.” With him are his children, from left, Joey (back to camera), Rachel and Emily. All three attend the school. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Two thousand doughnuts is a very attractive draw, but that’s only part of the reason more than 100 dads joined their kids in the auditorium of St. John the Baptist School in Savage the morning of April 6.

While they were feasting on the pastries, they got to listen to a former NFL quarterback talk about playing 18 seasons with several teams, including the Minne­sota Vikings.

The featured guest for the school’s “Dads and Donuts” event was Rich Gannon, who played for the Vikings from 1987 to 1993 and eventually landed with the Oakland Raiders, where he won the league MVP award and played in a Super Bowl.

Gannon came at the request of his friend, St. John interim principal Jim Hamburge, who has more than double the number of years in Catholic education as Gannon did in the NFL. Up until the end of last school year, Hamburge had served as president of Holy Family High School in Victoria. Gannon’s oldest child, daughter Alexis, is a sophomore at the school.

Gannon, his wife, Shelley, and their other daughter, Danielle, an eighth-grader at St. Hubert School in Chanhassen, all belong to St. Hubert.

Being a difference-maker

Gannon handed off a message to his audience about the importance of Catholic education and the importance of passing down the Catholic faith to children. In between were stories about the big games he played and the great players with whom he played.

One, in particular, stood out for him — wide receiver Jerry Rice, a Hall-of-Famer who was a big reason why Gannon’s Raiders made it to the Super Bowl in 2002. Gannon remembers watching the All-Pro receiver during workouts.

“An hour before the afternoon practice, there was one guy out on the field, and it was Jerry Rice,” he said. “He was in his 18th season, and he was having ball boys throw him balls.

“The bigger the game, the better he played,” Gannon added. “His eyes lit up. . . . Jerry Rice was a difference-maker. In big games, he had the ability to just take over.”

With that comment, he made the segue to a deeper message for the dads and children in the auditorium. “The Lord wants us to be difference-makers,” he said. “We all have the responsibility to be difference-makers.”

It was a challenge that inspired dads like Tom Walsh, who sat next to his son, Michael, a second-grader at the school.

“I thought it was tremendous, talking about the values, the goal setting and the value of Catholic education,” he said. “I think it’s always important to have someone like Rich Gannon reinforce what we’re trying to teach our kids — discipline, faith and prayer.”

Involving more dads

The event was definitely a touchdown in the eyes of people like Father Michael Tix, pastor of St. John, and communications coordinator Carol Radosevich, who came up with the idea of “Dads and Donuts” at the start of the school year. This was the second such event of this school year.

“The concept was to get the dads plugged in more,” she said. “There are dads who have never walked the halls [of the school].

“I thought [Gannon] was outstanding,” she added. “I thought his message was right on. It makes you so glad you give your kids a Catholic education. It does make a difference.”

Even though the event began at 8 a.m., there was no sign of sleepiness among the kids and dads in attendance.

“There was a lot of energy in the auditorium; it was neat to see,” Father Tix said. “It was jammed. It looked like all the chairs were full, and there were more people standing around the edge.”

The only downside has been the reaction of moms.

“The moms are jealous because they want to have their morning, too,” Radosevich said. “So, we’re playing around with the idea of having” a program for mothers and daughters.

Rich Gannon offers tips for dads

When it comes to raising kids in the Catholic faith, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Rich Gannon offered these five tips for dads:

» Pray with them. “No. 1 for me is to pray with the kids,” he said. “That’s really important.”

» Discuss the faith. “I think it’s also important to talk to them about their faith. We try to do that [at home]. We talk about our faith life at the dinner table and at bed time.”

» Take kids to Mass. “That was just instilled in me, the importance of going to Mass. It’s a priority in our house. We don’t make exceptions. If we travel out of the country, we find a way to get to church.”

» Read the Bible. “We need to open up the Bible and read it. That’s a blueprint; that is our playbook. . . . Unfortunately, in a lot of homes, it sits on the shelf.”

» Share the faith. “We are all called to be witnesses. I encourage parents and children to share their faith. Christ said to go and make disciples, and we’re called to do that.”

— Dave Hrbacek

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