LANSING | Dads were lined up with their children on Wednesday morning outside Nathan Hale Elementary School.
Fathers of students in Sunnybrook District 171, which serves Lansing and Lynwood, participated in the Million Father March for the first day of school, taking their children to Nathan Hale and Heritage Middle School.
"(The event) means a lot to me because I didn't have a father in my life," Derek Henderson said. "I'm going to be the best father I can be for my son. I'm going to do everything that my father didn't do."
The Black Star Project, an organization created with the goal of improving the quality of life in black and Latino communities in the Chicago area and nationwide, began the annual Million Father March in 2004. The back-to-school event asks men to take their kids to school on the first day.
The group expects more than a million dads to take part this year.
Henderson took his son, Derek Jr., to Nathan Hale. He's 8 years old and in fourth grade.
Dad excitedly took pictures of his son with his cell phone in front of the building. Derek Sr. high-fived and fist-bumped other fathers there with their kids. Derek Jr. said he was excited for school because his dad was excited for school.
"A lot of kids, their fathers aren't in their lives," Henderson said. "I don't want him to go down that path."
Keith Gresham works midnights as a Cook County sheriff's deputy and said he takes his son Khanon to school every morning and wishes more fathers would do the same. Gresham waited for school to open with James Brown and his children, Jaelin and Julian.
Terry Bronson said his wife told him about the Million Father March and he thought it was important. He took his son, Terry Jr., to his first day of third grade and brought 3-year-old Jayden along for the ride.
"It's important for (fathers) to show up and support their kids," Bronson said. "A father's got to be involved in a kid's life. It's a good showing for them, so that when they come up with their kids they can do the same thing."
Robert Scott took his grandchildren, Rashaun Davis and Ranin Reed, to school. He said he would've been there with or without the Million Father March, but saw the need for the event.
"It's a great opportunity to see my grandkids go back to school," he said. "It's a very responsible thing. Kids look up to their fathers."