When he was younger, Matt Boettcher wrote himself a checklist of things he hoped to do someday. He didn’t call it his “bucket list” – the preferred current shorthand for a list of things to do before you kick the bucket – because the term really hadn’t come into common parlance at the time. But it sort of served as one.
Around the turn of the century, in a bit of self-evaluation, he dug out the list and took a look to see how things were going. He realized a lot of the items on his list were things to do with his children. “Take your kids skiing the first time.” That sort of thing.
Cut to the summer of 2012. Boettcher’s young sons were playing on sports teams by then. When Boettcher and other dads gathered at Murphey Candler Park in Brookhaven to watch their children compete in Dunwoody United Methodist Church league gam
es, they talked about how they wanted to do more things with their kids. They wanted to do memorable things together. So, Boettcher said, they created Dads’ Bucket List.
Notice the position of the apostrophe, Boettcher said one recent afternoon in the basement of his Dunwoody home. Dads’ is plural. It’s not his list, but the group’s. “It’s about dads getting together and having a group bucket list,” he said.
And since last June, these mostly Dunwoody dads and kids have been off on periodic adventures.
They climbed Stone Mountain. That was Adventure Number One. They set off with a party of 13 – five dads and eight kids. “Climbing a mountain, it was kind of symbolic,” said Boettcher, who’s 44 and grew up in Colorado. “That kind of set the ball in motion.”
Since then, they’ve gone caving, camping, fishing, tubing, ziplining, and, yes, skiing. Boettcher’s 8-year-old son Blake is quick to say that ski trip to North Carolina was his favorite. “We liked it a lot,” he said.
It’s not all road trips to ski resorts and caves. They’ve breakfasted at a Waffle House. They’ve done good deeds as a group. They once shook hundreds of pounds of pears from a donated tree and harvested them for a food pantry. They did a Polar Bear Plunge in one dad’s Dunwoody pool one cold morning. And last July 4, they made a big, bucket-shaped float and marched in Dunwoody’s Fourth of July Parade.
Boettcher said the idea behind the group is just to get dads and kids out doing things together. The dads take turns planning events. “Women naturally plan play dates,” he said. “They’re just good at this stuff. Men aren’t. We’re more ‘fly by the seat of our pants’ types. If people want to do this stuff, we need to plan it for them.”
George Markley, one of the original dads, counts the parade as the best experience he’s had so far with the group. “We worked with the kids to build a float,” he said. “We just didn’t think it would happen, and then it did, and the people of Dunwoody just loved the concept. It was an old-school float, like you did in high school. Kids don’t get exposed to that anymore.”
Markley said his 7-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter now look forward to the events. “My kids ask every month: ‘What’s Dads’ Bucket List going to do this month?’” he said.
“We’re all working dads trying to find time with our kids,” said Markley, who’s 45, grew up in California, and now lives in Dunwoody. “This provides structure, and it helps my kids get out of their little clique and meet other kids.”
Besides, he said, “a lot of the things we have done, it’s not stuff I would have done without Dads’ Bucket List.”
Now these Dunwoody dads are trying to take their concept a step further. They’re organizing a Dads’ Bucket List “Checklist Challenge” for March 1 at Cagle’s Dairy Farm near Canton. It’s open to the general public, and if it’s successful, they may try to do more father-child events. Entry fees start at $79 for a dad and one child and add $25 for additional children. For more information, go to dadbucketlist.com.
During the day, participants can take part in 14 or 15 “challenges” based on reality TV show-styled games. They will have a chance to kick a field goal, tear down and rebuild a small structure made of PVC pipes and, Boettcher promises, join in “some sort of eating challenge.”
Boettcher says the basic idea is for fathers and their children to share experiences. “My dad was all in on fatherhood,” he said. “He didn’t miss an opportunity to do things with me.”
He says he and the other dads want their kids to think the same of them someday. “We want to leave a legacy for our kids,” Boettcher said. “I remember some great times with my dad. That’s what we want our kids to remember.”