After a narrow escape in Afganistan this Wandsworth dad is encouraging kids to learn resilience outdoors

By Carolina Herranz-Carr
October 1 2019, 12.15

A Bear Grylls-style club for kids is toughening up Wandsworth’s youngsters and offering an antidote to ‘mollycoddling’ parenting.

The 25 family-strong club, dubbed Dadventure Club meet every second week to build fires, sew leather and go on expeditions. The aim is to teach the kids to be resilient, while giving dads a place to bond with their kids.

Photographer John D McHugh, 46, founded the club in 2016 with the aim of spending quality time with his two daughters Cara, 7, and Erin, 9.

“Too many people are wrapping their kids up in cotton wool these days, that is not a way to experience the world,” he said.

Mr McHugh’s world view changed in 2007 after a ‘lucky escape’ from Afghanistan, where he was shot in the chest by Taliban insurgents while filming a documentary of US troops.

“I would go for two to three months at a time and I was missing my kids growing up.

BONDING: Dadventure club encourages parents to spend time with their children outdoors

“It was 2014 before I realised I wasn’t going to go back, and two years later, in 2016, I started Dadventure Club.”

Now, a stay-at-home dad whilst wife Helen works in the City, Mr McHugh acknowledges that other dads struggle to connect with their kids.

“There are not a lot of activities for dads to bond with their kids, except from the sidelines of a football field,” said Mr McHugh, “guys in the pub will admit it.”

The club founder aims to encourage dads who struggle to connect with their kids to bond over canoeing, axes and knives, stargazing and late-night expeditions.

He believes the club has tightened links in the community and had a positive effect on his and its member’s families.

Mr McHugh’s club is independently run and does not receive funding. He hopes to inspire other parents to duplicate Dadventure Club by launching their own.

“I believe the only way kids learn how to mitigate risk is to experience it,” he said.

Images credits: John D McHugh/Dadventure Club

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