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Dads Making a Difference

By Carolyn Kessel Stewart / Daily News Staff Sunday, June 19, 2005

Good fathers deserve to be rewarded.

Two "Super Dads" from Framingham and Hudson will be very publicly thanked this afternoon by their daughters, who plan to express their gratitude before an expected 15,000 people at Boston Common.

Michael Generazio of Framingham and Kevin Sullivan of Hudson were named "Super Dads" and will be honored, to their surprise, at the "Dads Make a Difference" celebration, part of the Fathering Project.

Jillian Generazio was in the unusual position of choosing the man she now calls Daddy, her "Uncle Mike" Generazio.

Her birth father took drugs and abused her family, Jillian said, so she began spending weekends with Uncle Mike and his wife, Veronica Generazio.
They would walk the Generazios' dogs together, visit museums, go sledding or pick up ice cream. When she was with her uncle, Jillian said she finally felt like a kid, learning to "smile, laugh, run and play."

Generazio, 52, was like a big kid himself, she said. He was someone who would laugh and play with her. And, as she got older, he offered sage advice, listened to her and cheer her on in academics and activities.

Although her parents did not seem interested, Jillian said, Uncle Mike was in the audience of all her Framingham High School drama productions.
He took pictures at her track meets and still keeps a collection of her fifth-grade poems and paintings in his office at New England Sand and Gravel. She moved in with her aunt and uncle at 13.

"(To be a dad), I think it takes a lot of patience, which is a lot of what he has, and a lot of love," Jillian said.

Jillian took her uncle's last name when she turned 18 last year, and considers him her true father. The fact that she is now succeeding in college is proof of his influence, she said. Jillian just finished her first year at Western New England College in Springfield, where she is studying early childhood education. She hopes to become a foster parent and set up school programs that encourage parents to be involved in their children's lives, just like her "daddy" was.

Three little girls in Hudson cannot wait to share their story of a "Super Dad." He loves to play, too.

Lauren, Cara and Abigail Sullivan nominated their dad, Kevin, as a "Super Dad" who they are lucky enough to get to spend lots of time with.

Sullivan, 38, works as an overnight counselor at a program for adolescents in Worcester.

Lynne Sullivan, an occupational therapist, said her husband has taken on fatherhood with gusto, chaperoning field trips and picking up his daughters from school.

"His priority is having fun with the kids and making sure all their needs get met," said Lynne Sullivan of Priest Street.

Lauren, 4, loves to do acrobatics with her dad and play Candyland.

"I think my dad is a super dad 'cuz he gives us doughnuts and sometimes he gives up ice cream," she said.

Cara, 6, and Abigail, 7, also love getting an after school treat with their dad.

"He's nice to us. And when it's like our birthday, he tickles us," Cara said.

Today is the eighth annual "Dads Make a Difference" celebration. The Fathering Project, said spokesman Tony Palombo, was created to increase awareness about how important active, involved "fathering" is to children and communities.

"We support and celebrate fathering in concrete ways," Palombo said. The Medical Foundation, a nonprofit public health group out of Boston, studies the importance of fathers to institutions and communities, such as whether the absence of a father correlates to violence in families or communities.

"In the changing environment, you see a lot more two-income families. And in a lot of ways, dads are forced to pick up their end of the child rearing and found in many ways it was a great thing," Palombo said.

The group offers an annual workshop on fathering and encourages support and education on how to be a good fathers.

More information on the Medical Foundation and the Fathering Project is at www.tmfnet.org.