SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – If life brings lemons, consider filling them inside of donuts to make them sweeter. That’s what Savannah resident Tom Neary did.

“Over 10 years ago, I had my son and my daughter, and my wife had a job where she needed to work a day, one full day a week. My job at the time was pretty flexible, so in the middle of the week, I was going to have my kids,” Neary said.

“I wasn’t raised with a dad that was that engaged with us,” he continued. “He was always working, and so I literally was like, I don’t know what to do with my kids.”

A lover of donuts and coffee, Neary took his kids to a donut shop on the first day, followed by a trip to the local library and a park.

“After that first day, I was like, ‘You know what, this is good, we should do it again.’ And so the next week, we did the same thing,” he said.

The first photo of Tom Neary and two of his children Morgan (pictured left) and son Joel (pictured right) at a donut shop. (Photo provided by Tom Neary)

The only difference was he decided to start capturing the moments by taking a picture with his kids every time they went to a donut shop.

One of those pictures eventually caught the attention of Tim Hortons Inc., a Canadian international coffeehouse and restaurant chain based in Toronto.

“One of the pictures was used by Tim Horton’s website,” said Neary.

Neary’s wife Grace said: “I thought that was fantastic, it was so cool for me to watch him kind of step into that, and fatherhood, and take the initiative to really make it a priority to be spending time with the kids and making the most of the time that he had with them.”

“When you have young kids, your family is busy, and it’s easy to kind of push some of those things off to the side,” she continued. “So that was really cool for me to watch and I was so grateful for him, that he was able to step into that role.”

In 2019, Neary, his wife and their children moved to Savannah with the hope of opening their very own donut shop that provides hope and inspires fathers to be present in the lives of their families.

“We said that’s something worth giving our lives to and we were up in Buffalo, New York, at the time,” Neary said. “We were just trying to figure out where we would go and where we would do that donut shop and kind of said, we’d never opened a business before, we’d never made donuts before.”

Since their move to Savannah, not only has Neary’s Facebook page, Dads Donut House, garnered over 1,000 likes and followers, but they have also learned to make donuts from scratch.

Tom and Grace Neary’s first trial run at making donuts. (Photo provided by Tom Neary)

On how they learned to make donuts, Neary joked, “Trial and error. I used to be a lot skinnier and then, you know, I’ve been doing a lot of product research.”  

He continued, “My wife, she has always been around the kitchen, not professionally, but she bakes incredible things and makes really good things, so it was very natural for her to learn how to do it.”

Neary still, to date, has donuts with his kids and captures the moment in a photo that goes on his Facebook page, inspiring others.

Tom Neary and his children having donuts with friends. (Photo provided by Tom Neary)

“The next thing you knew, other dads were doing the same things with their kids and really encouraged a lot of people that I know to be doing the same thing,” Neary said. “The other thing that we didn’t even think about when we got into it was some of the older fathers who have kind of, the relationship has been strained with their younger kids or the memory of their dad wasn’t a good memory. 

“When they are seeing what we are doing, they are very encouraged that the future is going to be different than the reality that they experienced.”

To date, Tom Neary and his children still have donuts together. (Photo provided by Tom Neary)

Grace said: “I really hope that families will take the initiative to spend time together and really find something that they can all connect with together and not just have fun together. I mean, that’s really important, but really do life together.  I feel like it’s so easy for kids, especially as our kids get older, to kind of separate, everybody kind of doing their own thing.  It can be hard to feel close, and there’s electronics or lots of extracurricular activities going on, and so just really having the time to be together as a family.”

As for what the Neary kids think, 12-year-old son Joel said, “I love spending time with my dad eating donuts together! We have a great relationship because of that.”

Daughter Morgan, who is 11 years old said, “Daddy date is the best thing about Saturday. Every day we make donuts. It smells amazing in our backyard, and I love it!

Tyler, who is 9 years old said, ” I love that we get to eat donuts together!” and the youngest, 6-year-old Josh said, “I love eating Donuts!”

On the legacy he would like to leave for his children, Neary said, “I would want my kids to be able to say that they were a part of either revealing love or bringing love into the world through helping other kids and their parents. 

“And everybody eats great donuts.”

Learn more about Dads Donut House online at this link.