It is 8 AM on a recent Saturday and over 20 Gibbons dads have gathered at The Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Center in Smithfield for a day of fellowship, service, history, and a little fun.
The men are members of DadCRU. According to the school website, the group brings together Gibbons dads in specific meaningful activities that foster relationships and serve the school community. Describing its mission, John Cooling who spearheads the group with fellow Gibbons Dad Paco Roman, said: “DadCRU allows folks to become more engaged with Gibbons in areas they might not otherwise get involved in … and connect with other community members in settings outside normal routines.”
The group, he added, enhances the Gibbons experience by providing unique, fun opportunities to give back to the school community. John is the father of Montgomery ’17 and Blake ’21.
One of those opportunities was helping at Short Journey. Gibbons purchased the center last March, underscoring its commitment to the spiritual formation of its school community and its connection to the history of the Diocese of Raleigh. It bought Short Journey from the diocese, which owned and operated the center for more than 30 years before closing it two years ago.
"I know that our parents will fall in love with Short Journey the same way our students and educators already have,” said Principal Jason Curtis.
Time and the environment, however, have taken their toll on the center and its historic buildings, situated on 12 pastoral acres, set back from Cleveland Road. In the seven months since the purchase, various school groups, from student-athletes and coaches to administrators and educators, have worked to refresh the center, which will undergo a renovation before it reopens next year.
The initial cleanup done by the different school groups has ranged from landscaping the grounds to discarding furniture, carpeting, and furnishings. DadCRU continued that work on October 27. Helping them in that effort were Principal Jason D. Curtis, Assistant Principals Mike Rogosich and Mike Curatolo, Facilities Maintenance Supervisor Ed McKinnie, Director of Athletic Leadership/Legacy Dean Monroe, and Retreat Director Tim Yelenic.
Why was refreshing the center a DadCRU initiative? “Gibbons is a pioneer with Short Journey…,” said Cooling. “It is important for us to make this facility outstanding to best capitalize on the opportunity it affords our educators and students.”
Underscoring that commitment is the fact that over 20 men rolled up their shirt sleeves to help. Gibbons dad Adam Smith said he got involved with DadCRU, “because it is a rewarding way to give back, as well as to lead by example for my children and let them know that I not only support them, but also their school.” His daughter, Caitlyn ’22, is a freshman, and son, Justin, is a prospective member of the Class of ’25.
Of why Smith volunteered at Short Journey, he added: “Pride, fellowship, and a chance to make a difference. My children, their friends, and our families will utilize this facility for many years to come. Knowing that I had a small part in making it the best it can be and contribute to their memories is priceless and rewarding.”
Adding to that sentiment is Gibbons dad Daryle Steffens. He is the father of Zachary ’16, Megan’18, and Emma ’22. “Since Emma is a freshman she will have the next three years to build faith-filled memories at the center,” he said, adding “… being able to spend a day with some Gibbons dads doing some odd jobs for a very worthy cause sounded pretty cool.”
Asked why it is important for Gibbons to have its own retreat center, Steffens said: “…One of the many benefits of our children attending Gibbons is knowing they are immersed in a Catholic environment where our faith is not only lived but celebrated. Attending retreats is one of many ways our children can grow in faith and this retreat center will only increase the available retreat opportunities.”
Principal Curtis said, “It was great to be with so many Gibbons dads helping us get Short Journey ready, and I appreciated their interest in the history of this remarkable building. It is so important to have parents actually walk through Short Journey, hear about its history, and learn more about how our retreat program will continue and expand its legacy. I know that our parents will fall in love with Short Journey the same way our students and educators already have.”
Along with refreshing the center, DadCRU also helps with such activities as managing tailgates, parking cars during home football games, setting up, breaking down, and cleaning up after theater activities and major school functions, said John Cooling. “DadCRU also has a social element with off-site gatherings for the members to connect outside of Gibbons,” he said.
Looking ahead, Short Journey Retreat Center and DadCRU are sure to be essential components of the Gibbons journey for many years to come.