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LI dads find delight in helping Girl Scouts

Steve Kitchener and his daughter, Brianna, in their

Steve Kitchener and his daughter, Brianna, in their Merrick home. (June 15 2013) Credit: Johnny Milano

Though some took a little convincing, Long Island fathers are increasingly helping lead their daughters' Girl Scout troops -- and finding the volunteer work emotionally satisfying.

The fathers -- who pitch in as single dads or to help their busy wives -- are taking advantage of the opportunity to strengthen connections with their kids as they reach the whirlwind teenage years.

Dominic Sabino, a Suffolk County police officer who lives in Bellmore, was recruited by his wife Maria, who needed help leading her three daughters' troops.

"It's a great opportunity to watch my girls interact with the other girls in the troop and learn something," Sabino said.

His middle daughter, 12-year-old Rachel, seems appreciative.

"I think it's really cool for my dad to be a leader," she said, noting for the record that women are the ones really in charge.

Anthony Edelman, an assistant vice president at Bethpage Federal Credit Union, admits he was dragged "kicking and screaming" into volunteering.

"I was like, 'What would I want to do that for?' " the Hicksville resident said. "But once I got involved and understood what the organization was about, it wasn't hard at all."

He became a Girl Scout leader about 13 years ago, starting by helping to build a "peace garden" at a local park.

"I see more and more fathers getting involved not only at the troop level but at the leadership level," Edelman said.

He said his wife, Theresa, enlisted him to take on the duties of the troop's "Cookie Mom" -- now referred to as Cookie Manager -- coaching them through the annual sale drive.

He witnessed how his daughter Maggie, now a 20-year-old college student, became a "miniature CEO" through the cookie fundraiser, at one point becoming the top seller in Nassau County.

Lawrence Artz, a radiation therapist with Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, Queens, finds himself recalling his days as an Eagle Scout.

The Girl Scouts, he has found out firsthand, is giving his daughters -- Abigail, 11, and Victoria, 8 -- "a good outline of a well-rounded person."

"It kind of cuts out all that cattiness," said Artz of Lynbrook. "They kind of become their own person and make their own decisions."

Steven Kitchener, an engineer and Cablevision facilities manager, has coached his 17-year-old daughter's prizewinning Girl Scout robotics team since Brianna was 10.

The North Merrick resident has observed that girls spend more time discussing their plans than boys. "I have to refocus them sometimes," he said. "They are building a robot and they are singing and dancing at the same time."

Brianna said her team calls all the robots "Steve" because sometimes they don't work -- just like some of her dad's ideas.

"He kind of gets these 'uh-oh' moments where you're like, 'You didn't need to do that,' " she said. "He learns from us as we learn from him."

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