By Steven Monacelli

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Each year, we celebrate Father’s Day without much thought as to how the celebration started. Just like all “national days” on the calendar, Father’s Day has a unique history of its own that started well before it was signed into law as a national holiday by President Richard Nixon in 1972. 

That history goes much deeper than some other “national days” that share the same date this year (no offense to National Garfield the Cat Day) and it all started at a place that for decades has served fathers and their families — the YMCA.

Keith Vinson, Vice President of Operations with Moorland YMCA in Oak Cliff, spoke with DW to help provide more detail on that history and how YMCA continues to serve and honor fathers to this day. 

Dallas Weekly: I’ve read a bit about the YMCA’s role in the creation of Father’s Day. At the time, Mother’s Day already existed, but there wasn’t a day specifically to honor fatherhood. Can you tell us a little about that history and how it relates to the YMCA?

Keith Vinson:  When you go back to the first Father’s Day and when that was created, it was founded by Sonora Louise Smart in Spokane, Washington. She wanted to pay tribute to her Civil War Veteran father whose wife died during childbirth.  And so with the help of the YMCA in Spokane, she was able to organize the first Father’s Day celebration to honor her father.

DW:  So, now more than one hundred years later, what are you all doing at the YMCA Dallas to celebrate Father’s Day?

KV:  So for years, each of our branches selected a father of the year. Our father of the year at Moorland is Dr. Marcus Johnson. He’s on our board, he brings his daughters to volunteer alongside him, he’s coaching their sports team — he really sets a great example and gets the model out by being a mentor and father figure to so many young people.

DW: Outside of the Father’s Day celebration and the recognition, are there year round or programs that the YMCA is running with regard to helping fathers play an active role in their children’s lives?

KV: The biggest place that we catch them is in our sports programs. We tell parents that sports are a great way to spend time with your kid and be the example. We also have a father child program called Adventure Guides, and Adventure Guides is a curriculum based program that has parents meeting with their child throughout the month, and then twice a year they go on different campouts where they can have deep rooted time together. And then of course we honor them when we can. Moms typically play the biggest part and really the foundation for most families, and Dads sometimes don’t get the credit that they deserve in playing that role in a child’s life. 

DW:  As you mentioned, Moms are often the bedrock and foundation of families. That’s particularly the case for kids who are growing up in Dallas who may not have a stable father figure, or have family troubles of some sort that have estranged them from their fathers. Are there any programs or any partnerships with the YMCA for those kids for whom Father’s Day may be a tough day?

KV:  I think the biggest partnership that we have is with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. We allow for both the Bigs and the Littles to have memberships so they can use the facilities together. I can give you one one real example. Jesse Hornbuckle is one of our board members of the YMCA in Oak Cliff and he’s been a Big to his Little since he was in elementary school. And now this young man is going to be a sophomore in college next year, and they’re still connected. This particular young man came from a pretty rough upbringing, but now is in college with a full ride. So, that relationship with Big Brothers and Big Sisters is really huge because it puts a father-like figure in the life of another child, and we’re able to provide them with a place where they can come and bond in.

DW: Is there anything that I didn’t ask about or any other details that you think would be good to touch?

KV: When you think about the YMCA, we have the makings of a place where dads can spend quality time with their kids. Dads have an opportunity at the YMCA to immerse themselves in activities along with their children, whether it’s at the pool or through sports and coaching. I tell you, when you see Dads coming in and doing basketball time with their child, the smiles that you see on those kids’ faces, it’s incredible. The YMCA offers the opportunity for Dads to really shine. Whether it’s through active sports, the pool, or even eSports programs, we’re creating a space whereby Dads and their children can participate in different ways, some which may be a bit nontraditional.

DW: Thank you so much for your time. And Happy Father’s Day. 

To learn more about the YMCA and programs available near you, visit  

Steven Monacelli is an independent investigative journalist based in Dallas. He has been contributing to Dallas Weekly since 2021. He is also the publisher of Protean Magazine, a nonprofit literary publication.