11 Inspiring Dads Who Found Creative Ways To Show They Care

And make us want to call our own dads and thank them.

From teaching us to do new things, to comforting us when we're down, to working hard to make sure we have everything we need in life, dads are there to show us they care. Whether they're related by blood or not, the father figures in our lives can be real-life everyday superheroes we're lucky to have. 

With Father's Day around the corner, we wanted to highlight some dads who have inspired us so far in 2017. They've reminded us that while parenthood can sometimes feel like it's a job, it's also a privilege. From a stay-at-home dad who goes the extra mile to make his family laugh, to a father who raised money to help other people's kids, these guys remind us to appreciate all the things our dads do — big and small.  


1. This dad who couldn’t find children’s books that represented his daughters, so he created one himself.

Jerry Zhang, a father of two, couldn't find any children's books featuring Asian people as the main characters. So, he took matters into his own hands and created the character of Pepper Zhang, a spirited Asian toddler with a big imagination.

"The book was originally something I wanted to write just for my daughters, so naturally, I wanted Pepper's last name to be the same as our family's," Zhang told A Plus earlier this year. "In fact, Pepper's family is modeled after my family, with Pepper being inspired by my oldest daughter, Madison, who is now 4."

Zhang began working on the story after Madison told him she didn't want to be Chinese anymore because Madeline and Eloise — two famed book characters — weren't. He wanted to show her how beautiful their culture was and to create an Asian character she could connect with. 

"As a father, I constantly think about the memories and trinkets that'll have a lasting impact on my daughters as they mature, and what they can look back on when they're adults," Zhang told A Plus. "I wish I had more memories of my life when I was their age. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was Madison's age, so I think that transition has caused a gap in my memory from that period of my life. At the very least, my daughters will always have a book that is inspired by them and has had an impact on other children." 

2. This dad who makes breakfast and playtime with his son "super" fun.

DreamWorks employee Daniel Hashimoto uses Adobe After Effects to transforms normal iPhone videos of his son into superhero scenes, showing him doing everything from blasting lasers, to battling sharks. The project has helped him further bond with his son. 

"Each project is inspired by playtime with my son," Hashimoto told BabyCenter Blog. "He'll make believe something and I think to myself — I'd love to show him really doing those things." 

He uploads the videos to his Action Movie Kid YouTube channel where he now has 825,000 subscribers. Hashimoto never expected them to get so popular, but he's happy that people are enjoying them. 

 "I always thought that the videos would be pretty funny to a larger audience, but I was imagining friends, and friends of friends watching them," he said. "I'm really happy that my videos of my son get to be part of this new creative sphere." 

3. This dad who goes to great lengths to keep his kids off their phones.

Creative dad Bradley Herbst came up with a clever idea to keep his kids off their phones when they're together. Herbst drives his daughter and son to school once a week and asks that they not look at their phones for the duration of the ride. If they do, Herbst will walk them into school while wearing whatever elaborate costume he decided to put on that day. 

And believe us, he goes all out. He's dressed up as a cheerleader, Elvis, the Cat in the Hat, and more. Since he started wearing the costumes three years ago, he's never had to walk his kids into the building. 

"We actually have a 10 minute conversation, without interruption," Herbst told A Plus back in May. "You'd be amazed with what kind of information, and how much information, I can get from them, without the interruption of their phones!" 

While his kids didn't love it at first, Herbst's tradition helped to bring his family closer together.

"Our family mantra is that whatever we're doing, whatever situation we're in, even if it's not the best situation, we're going to make the best of it, and try to make it fun. I think this drives home that idea," he said. "One day, probably later rather than sooner, my kids will look back on this and really appreciate it. I hope they realize that it comes from a a place of love." 

4. This dad who surprised his son at his high school graduation by wearing a special tie he gave him 11 years ago.

Courtesy of Dylan Olivo

When Dylan Olivo was in first grade, he designed his very own tie to give his dad for Father's Day. He drew Pikachu and Poké Balls all over it. Olivo loved Pokémon at the time and hoped his dad would like wearing something that brought him so much joy. 

Eleven years later and it's clear Olivo was right. His father, Robert, busted out the tie to wear to his son's high school graduation ceremony.

"He wore the tie to show he had it, and to reflect that I am officially a high school graduate and not the child I was when I made the tie," Olvio told BuzzFeed. "I was so excited and full of joy at graduation that it brought my spirits even higher seeing it." 

Normally, the handmade gifts we give our parents when we're children end up collecting dust, but Olivo's dad found a special way to show his son how much he appreciated it over a decade later. 

5. This dad who couldn't make it to his 5-year-old's first father-daughter dance, so he sent Beast instead.

Courtesy of Lanya Nelson

When Christopher Nelson realized he'd be missing his daughter Gracee's first ever father-daughter dance, he was heartbroken. Nelson is a contractor for the U.S. Army, and is currently in Afghanistan for a year-long stay, while his daughter and wife, Lanya, live in El Paso, Texas. 

He knew he had to do something to make sure it was still special for her. Once he remembered that the theme was Beauty and the Beast, Christopher and Lanya decided to hire someone to dress up as Beast to accompany their daughter to the dance as a surprise. 

"She couldn't believe it. She thought the real Beast came all the way from Disney World. As soon as she saw him in the hallway of her school her whole face lit up. You could see how proud she was when they walked in the dance together in front of all her friends!" Lanya told A Plus in May. "After we saw how happy she was at the dance and how she couldn't stop talking about the Beast, we knew we made the absolute best of our circumstances. We felt proud that we 'got it right' for our daughter."

6. This dad who raised enough money to pay off an entire school district's lunch debt.

Students around the country are being punished for accumulating debt on their school lunch accounts. Different schools "lunch shame" kids in different ways. Some offer "alternative meals" such as cold cheese sandwiches if students have debt on their cafeteria accounts. Others stamp student's arms to show they have a balance on their account. Some even throw the food they'd be giving those kids in the trash. 

While low-income families can qualify for free or reduced lunches, some parents fail to fill out the necessary paperwork. Others still struggle to afford the reduced cost, causing their child's lunch account to be overdrawn. In some cases, parents neglect their child's prepaid lunch account and don't put money in it.

When Jeffery Lew heard that kids were being "lunch shamed" for something that isn't their fault, he decided to take action. The father-of-three living in Seattle raised enough money on a GoFundMe page to pay off the entire Seattle School District's lunch debt. 

"We just don't know what these kids or families are going through," Lew told ABC News. "No kid should go hungry regard[less] if they have money or not."

7. This dad who recites a positive affirmation with his son every morning.

Jenabu Williams and his son Joshua have a very special morning tradition. Together, the pair recites positive affirmations each day. 

"It just lays the foundation and the expectations for what he is to do and become," Williams told A Plus in January. Through the pledges Joshua makes to himself each morning, he's learned a ton of important traits and life skills such as conflict resolution, confidence, and taking responsibility. 

Their daily affirmations have given Williams and his son a special way to bond and an uplifting start to each morning. "It's become a part of our rich morning rituals and routines. I mean, we've always prayed together as a family, but now we've added this on, and so we do this as well in the morning with our son," Williams said. "In less than three weeks — just from the responsive, back-and-forth reading and just doing this every day — before I knew it, one day he said, 'You know what, Dad, I want to lead the pledge.' "  

8. This dad who ended a lunch tradition with his daughter with a bittersweet message.

Tom Sullivan has been making his daughter, Meg Sullivan, school lunches since she was a little girl in kindergarten. The gesture was a reminder that he'd be thinking about her throughout his day and to show that he cares. He continued the tradition all throughout high school and would even peel her oranges for her up until her very last day of high school. 

On that day, Meg, now an 18-year-old, opened her lunch bag to reveal two unpeeled oranges and directions from a webpage on how to peel them all by herself. "It's time baby girl," he wrote on the printout, along with a crying face. 

Meg surely doesn't need instructions on how to peel her fruit, but the symbolic gesture marked the end of this tradition between her and her dad. The note was a reminder that she's heading toward independence as she goes off to college.

"I'm his last kiddo leaving for college this year, and you can tell he's really, really sad about it," Meg told BuzzFeed. "He has always gone above and beyond and is easily the cutest and most caring man I'll ever know. It's gonna break my heart to leave him for college, no doubt."

We're sure Meg is going to appreciate all her father has done for her while she's away at school. 

9. This dad who Photoshops his son into surreal scenes that represent his own childhood.

Amsterdam-based photographer Adrian Sommeling uses composition and digital manipulation to create amazing images of his son. One day, he'll be flying a magic carpet. The next, he'll be riding a giant elephant through a desert. After that, he's riding the London Eye like it's a wheel on his bicycle. 

The fun project gives Sommeling a creative outlet, and a way to connect with his son. He also often uses his own childhood memories and interests as the basis for some of the images. 

"Most of the people know me because of the composites I create with my son as the leading character," Sommeling wrote on his website. "Since he's is around 4 years old I put him in all kind of situations. Sometimes surreal, sometimes just like in reality. It wasn't my son that brought me the ideas for the composites, but by seeing him playing I remembered my own childhood. I remembered what made my laugh, sad or scared. So the images I made with him, aren't the wishes of my son, but visualizing my childhood." 

10. This stay-at-home dad who leaves his wife hilarious parenting observations on sticky notes.

The first time Chris Illuminati was left alone with his newborn son, his wife listed all the things he needed to do while she was gone. 

"'I better write this down,' I joked, and grabbed some post-it notes and a black Sharpie," Illuminati explained in a blog post. "As a joke (because I've never taken anything in life seriously), I wrote down even the simplest of tasks and pinned it to my bulletin board. I forgot all about the note. I also forgot to change the baby."

This experience inspired him to start writing funny parenting observations on sticky notes around his home for his wife to find. He eventually started sharing them on his blog Message With a Bottle, where they went viral because of how relatable the notes are. 

The notes helped Illuminati connect with his family and build up his parenting blog, but it also helped him create a unique a way to look back on his memories with his kids. Each sticky note tells a story about an experience he's had with them or a thought he's had while taking care of them. 

11. This dad who draws amazing illustrations on his son's lunch bags to help him feel more confident.

Dominick Cabalo always gives his 12-year-old son Nicholas something special to look forward to at lunchtime. For the past three years, he's sent Nicholas to school with fantastical drawings on his brown paper lunch bags. He covers them in beloved Disney characters, superheroes, popular figures from movies and TV shows, and even anime characters. Whether Nicholas opens up his backpack to find Dory or Captain America, he knows that his dad put in extra effort to show that he's loved. 

"Even though he has friends, he's pretty shy, so I started doing these to help break the ice and get conversations going. He took some summer school courses out-of-state, and these helped a lot when he didn't know anyone," Cabalo explained on Imgur. "Occasionally, I'll do original characters or I'll illustrate private jokes between him and me. But mostly, kids like established characters because then he can talk about it with his friends. He's broken out of his shell because of this, and I like to think that I had a hand in helping him do this with these bags." 

Cover image via Unsplash 


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