Dads and kids share experiences, bond through Rancho Santa Fe Outdoors Club


By Karen Billing

A newly formed Rancho Santa Fe group is dedicated toward building better relationships between dads and their kids, as well as encouraging a love of the outdoors. Calling themselves the Rancho Santa Fe Outdoors Club, a cool ROC for short, the group caters to fathers and sons and daughters ages 4 through 12, with activities such as camping, hiking, skiing and geocaching (a GPS-led outdoor treasure hunt).

“I wanted to help dads foster a deeper, stronger relationship with their children in the guise of doing fun, outdoor stuff,” said ROC founder Jeff Slosar, a father of five.

Slosar said his group is modeled after the YMCA’s Adventure Guides program, with a few tweaks for the Ranch. His family used to live in La Jolla and he served as the “nation chief” for that branch of Adventure Guides.

When his family moved to Rancho Santa Fe he looked into joining up at the local Encinitas branch, but was torn because the group separates boys and girls (Guides and Princesses) and he wanted to spend time with his daughters and sons together.

Talking with other Rancho Santa Fe fathers, he decided he could start a group of their own. By keeping the group co-ed and very local, Slosar said the kids are mixing with a more realistic peer group and with children that they go to school with and play with on sports teams.

“It’s a great opportunity to get together with really nice families from our town and build a sense of community,” said ROC dad Glen Oratz.

Since starting last September with 15 families and 45 members total, they have had several fun outings.

In October last year they camped on the beach at Pendleton and in November camped at the Arroyo property in Rancho Santa Fe. During the winter months they have headed indoors for family activities ( meaning moms were allowed); in January they went roller skating and last weekend they met at the North County Tavern and Bowl in Escondido.

In March, the group will head off on a weekend camping trip at Joshua Tree.

“We focus on things like self-esteem, confidence, teamwork and leadership,” Slosar said.

Members can earn achievements and merits for different activities and — to feel more like a team — they have ROC hats, t-shirts and warm ROC coats.

One feature of the group is a talking stick.

“When you hold it, you’re allowed to talk,” said ROC member Avery Slosar.

“We’re teaching them to listen to others and be respectful,” Slosar said. “And talking in front of a group can build self confidence.”

At the YMCA, Slosar was a chief who coordinated events for around 700 dads and kids; events could draw about 350 people. In contrast, with ROC his goal is to keep the group small and intimate. While his group may stay small, he could see ROC branching out to include other “tribes” created by other interested Rancho Santa Fe dads.

The experience with ROC is a valuable one and Slosar can think of nothing better than dads enjoying time with their kids. He especially loves introducing his children to the outdoors, having established his own family tradition of taking his kids on a solo camping trip with dad when they are 3 years old.

He had never really camped before but after having his second daughter, he wanted his kids to grow up not being squeamish or afraid.

“I have a picture of my daughter fishing at Lake Mead in a princess dress and one of her at 10 years old holding a snake,” Slosar said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to appreciate the outdoors.”