By Johnny Jackson
Travis Smith soaked in the sun's rays as he grilled his winning jerk chicken wings, made from a recipe composed of the collective ideas of friends.
The Chicago native, now a McDonough resident, won the "Real Men Cook" cooking competition at the post-Father's Day cookout at McGarity Academy, over the weekend.
"I like to participate in things like this," said Smith. "Today, you hear about a lot of fathers who aren't involved. But I'm an all-inclusive father. I go to the activities and support my children. That's what fathers do."
Smith, the father of 3-year-old Camiron Smith, who attends the East McDonough preschool, said the cookout offered families an opportunity to reconnect and get involved as role models in their children's school activities.
"I'm hoping that, as a father, I'm a good example for him," he said. "That's what my dad did for me."
The cookout targeted fathers, but involved the entire community, said Ericka Broadway, owner of McGarity Academy, which opened in March 2009.
"Number one is the parental involvement and community involvement, along with the children being able to have [fun] with activities like the moonwalk," Broadway said. "It went pretty well. We turned it into something ... fun, and exciting, for the participants."
Broadway said the preschool's 140 children, ages 6 weeks to 6 years old, were invited to attend the event with their families. Fathers were invited to take part in the cooking competition.
"It's important to get the male figure involved as a whole," Broadway added. "I have them come up and do phonics and reading, because that male role model plays a big role in children's lives ... Their presence is very enriching. It helps with their [the children's] self-esteem as well," she added.
"The primary thing is to try to keep the fathers active at the daycare here," interjected Paul Chaney, an associate of the academy, who volunteered to cook barbecue pork sandwiches, of Oak-smoked Boston Butts, for the event.
Administrators at the preschool said they hope weekend activities, like the Real Men Cook event, will leave an impression on members of the community and encourage them to take part in the development of the preschool.
"A lot of people don't know we're out here," said Amber Holbrook, assistant director of McGarity Academy. "This is just to get the community involved. I want everybody to have fun."
On the net:
McGarity Academy: www.mcgarityacademy.com