School essay lands Father of the Year award for Perry man
Story and photos by Carolyn Kaberline
When Shane Hill of Perry was asked to write an essay about a father figure in his life, he had no trouble coming up with a subject: the man who adopted him almost three years ago, Thomas Hill. That essay led to Thomas being named the 2011 Kansas City Royals Father of the Year and induction into the National Fathering Hall of Fame.
“The essay topic was ‘What My Father Means to Me,’ ” Lola Ward, Shane’s freshman English teacher at Perry-Lecompton High School, said. “The topic was provided by Fathers.com and the Kansas City Royals, who are trying to promote the importance of fathers.”
Ward added that “fathers often get lost in the shuffle, so I decided it was a good topic for the kids to write on. It could be about a dad, a brother, uncle, grandfather or anyone who provided a father image.”
Out of 55 completed essays turned in for the assignment, Ward sent 51 in to the contest which was open to Kansas and Missouri students; four students didn’t want their essays submitted. Of those 51, three PLHS essays were named winners.
“The first place essay in the ninth grade division was written by Daisy Johnson about her grandfather. Molly Dillman’s and Shane’s essays received honorable mentions,” Ward explained.
A winning essay and four honorable mentions were then selected for each grade, from first to twelfth, from the more than 2,700 essays submitted.
“Each of the 60 winners was asked if they’d like to submit a questionnaire,” said Bea Peters of Fathers.com, the National Center for Fathering. The top ten were then interviewed and the field was narrowed to five. “That way we came up with the child’s perspective, the dad’s view and a personal interview,” she explained.
Tom next received a letter telling him he was in the top five based on only the essays. No further details were given, but he was told that he needed to be at the June 14th Royals game for the awards ceremony.
Tom’s wife, Nancy, noted that the winning essays, some of which would make people cry, were read during the ceremony.
“I was so proud that Tom was in the running,” Nancy said, although the whole family admitted they were somewhat in shock when Tom’s name was called as the winner of the 2011 Father of the Year award.
Peters explained that Tom embodied the qualities that the National Center for Fathering promotes.
“Our mission is that every child have an involved father who will love them and coach them,” Peters said. “They should be models for their children, encourage other children and enlist other dads to do the same. The Hills are very loving people.”
Shane’s reason for writing about Tom echoes the sentiments Peters listed: “My real father was never there for me, so I didn’t want to write about him,” Shane said. “But I finally have a dad and a father-son relationship I never had before. My father means a lot to me. Without him, I don’t think I would be like I am today. He gave me a chance to have a childhood . . . Tom took me off the streets and gave me a home.”
In addition to Shane, the Hills have seven other children, five of whom are also adopted. They have also fostered more than 70 other children through the years, many of whom were considered “difficult.”
“We’ve taken in a lot of ‘last chance kids’ that others have given up on,” Nancy said. “They need stability and to know that someone cares.”
“All kids need a father and a coach,” Tom added.
Regardless of the reasons the youths come to be with them, the Hills treat them all like their own children, whether they stay for a few days or much longer. Tom’s philosophy is that a father is to be a role model—more so to the boys so they’ll know how to be fathers themselves someday.
He also believes a father should arrange some one-on-one time with each child to make him or her feel special. While he does demand respect as a parent, he also jokes a lot with them, something he says they appreciate and joke back with him. He also tries to teach them that it’s okay “to be mad, angry or cry; it’s how you handle the emotions that make the difference.”
Tom is also happy to see that “90 percent of the kids who have stayed with us have turned to God.” As pastor of the Perry Christian Church of Christ, Tom adds that they’re very fortunate that they don’t get to miss church at all.
In addition to becoming the 2011 Kansas City Royals Father of the year, Hill received the Dan Quisenberry award for being an outstanding father and was inducted into the Fathering Hall of Fame. He also received a year’s supply of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, passes to Worlds of Fun and the Kansas City Zoo, flowers, an autographed baseball, a Royals jersey and hat as well as a shirt saying Hall of Fame Dad.
Tom will be honored by the Royals again Sept. 14.
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