By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Northborough – Every elementary school has a Parent Teacher Organization, but few of them also have a group consisting completely of the students” fathers, grandfathers and uncles. Since the 1999-2000 school year, the Proctor Papas have organized family-oriented events at Proctor Elementary School.
The group formed the year before Principal Margaret Donohoe joined the staff.
“At first I wasn's sure how an all-men's group would operate,” she said. “It turned out to be this phenomenal group of men who were really committed to doing some fun activities at the school with families in mind. After I started as principal, we added the pancake breakfast.”
This year, the Proctor Papas manned the kitchen and welcomed families Nov. 3 to its 12th annual Pancake Breakfast.
“Many of them start in Proctor Papas when their sons and daughters are in kindergarten, and they go through to when their children are in the fifth grade,” Donohoe explained. “In fact, after their children left Proctor, a couple of them still came back and participated.”
Currently leading the group is Ben Davison, who began participating several years ago when his daughter was in kindergarten. She's now a sixth-grader at Melican Middle School, while his son is a third-grader at Proctor.
“Ben is taking the responsibility seriously, and yet he still has fun doing it,” Donohoe said. “He's a terrific guy, as are all of the other Proctor Papas. They definitely are a huge asset to the school.”
The Proctor Papas are always willing to lend a hand. They'se installed keyboards in the computer lab, constructed picnic tables, cleaned the school grounds, and helped build a new playground. Oftentimes, they organize trips to Worcester for families to attend hockey and baseball games with the Sharks and Tornadoes.
The organization's signature event is its annual Winter Carnival, which remains similar since its inception in 2000.
“The Winter Carnival is one of those things that I think they got right from the beginning,” Donohoe assessed. “We'se kept many of the same ideas we'se had all along, but we tried to get a little healthier in our choices of food that we offer. So instead of doing hot dogs and chips, we changed it to a pasta dinner.”
The evening event features snow sledding down a hill on the school grounds, which has affectionately become known as Mount Proctor. Being safety-minded, the Proctor Papas use bright-colored spray paint to mark individual lanes down the hill. Monitors are stationed at the top and bottom. Snowboards are not allowed and helmets are required.
Carnival guests are also offered horse-drawn sleigh rides, which travel around loops in front of the school.
“It's the best time seeing families together,” Donohoe said. “We'se had beautiful moonlit nights and the kids sing holiday classics on the sleigh as it goes around. It's a very special evening every year we'se had it.”
The Winter Carnival was canceled last year due to an unusually mild season with little snow on Mount Proctor.
Several years ago, the Proctor Papas started the school year with a back-to-school barbecue, which has become an annual event. More recently, they decided to also end the school year with a barbecue.
Donohoe said she's grateful for an enthusiastic Parent Teacher Organization, which raises funds for enrichment programs and other expenses with its annual Spring Fair. She feels their efforts are perfectly complimented by the Proctor Papas.
“The Parent Teacher Organization is open to everybody and tends to be more female dominated,” she said. “The Proctor Papas were never in it to raise funds; they'se in it to bring some family life back to the school.”