There was overwhelming community support as 269 students and father figures gathered to celebrate the grand launch of the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program, an initiative that promises to transform the lives of students and fathers alike.

In a heartwarming display of community engagement, Buckhorn Elementary School set a remarkable example for the power of positive male role models in education. The occasion was the grand launch of the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program, an initiative that promises to transform the lives of students and fathers alike.

The event, held on September 28, was nothing short of a resounding success. With 269 students and dedicated father figures in attendance, along with a generous contingent of volunteers, it was a night to remember for the Valrico community. One touching moment of the evening came from Stefan, a devoted father, who shared his experience: “Seeing my kids’ faces light up when they saw me volunteering at school was priceless,” Stefan said. “I never realized how much they cherish these moments.”

The WATCH D.O.G.S. program, born from the collaborative efforts of parents and educators in 1998, has steadily grown into one of the most renowned family and community engagement initiatives across the nation. Its core mission is simple yet powerful: to encourage fathers and father figures to invest a day of their time in their child’s school, making a lasting impact on their educational journey.

Parents from diverse family backgrounds need not worry; the WATCH D.O.G.S. program embraces all types of families and welcomes male role models from various walks of life.

For those wondering about the program’s effectiveness, rest assured that it’s not just about one night, as Buckhorn Elementary is committed to assessing the long-term impact of WATCH D.O.G.S. on student outcomes. The program offers flexibility; volunteers are able to choose a day that works for them and their job. It’s about the quality of time you spend with your child, not just the quantity.

The event served as an inspirational kickoff showcasing the tremendous potential for growth and enrichment that the WATCH D.O.G.S. program offers. It was a night of unity, bonding and a shared commitment to the betterment of the Buckhorn Elementary School community.

Currently, the program has made a significant difference at Buckhorn Elementary, fostering a sense of security, a conducive learning environment and meaningful connections within the school community.

Buckhorn Elementary School encourages other schools in the Valrico area to join this remarkable initiative.

Mark Girdwood summed up the spirit of the evening: “Being part of this program makes me proud. I know I’m contributing to a better future for our kids.”

For more information on the WATCH D.O.G.S. program, visit or contact Buckhorn Elementary Principal Corrie Heidt at 813-744-8240. You can also reach out to us directly at

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Libby Hopkins
Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.