CINCINNATI – Jason Dunn has two years to prepare himself before seeing his daughter off to college.
"I'm going to cry when she goes away to college," Dunn said of his daughter Mya.
The Bond Hill father admitted to faking an illness after the first of three college tours he and his wife, Tiffany, took with their daughter in North Carolina recently.
"He couldn't do the rest of the tours with us," said Mya Dunn, a sophomore at St. Ursula Academy.
"I had to walk away, man," Jason Dunn confirmed with a laugh.
The proud father and husband might need time to collect himself again this weekend when his entire family is honored during the Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion as the 2018 "Family of the Year."
"We are incredibly humbled by this," Tiffany Dunn said. "This came as a surprise to us."
Jason Dunn said his first reaction to reunion organizers telling him about the honor was, "Are you sure you have the right Dunn family?"
Dunn, the first African-American vice president of multicultural sales and community development for the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), added: "Sometimes you get a lot of awards and recognition, which are all special, but when you get honored by your own community it puts an emphasis on everything."
Jason and Tiffany Dunn, along with Mya and the couple's 4-year-old son Jason Dunn II, will march together in the annual Black Family Reunion parade in Avondale on Saturday morning. Mya said the parade will be the first time she can remember participating in the event.
"I'm glad I get the chance to be in the parade and experience the Black Family Reunion," she said.
For Jason and Tiffany, the honor allows them to share an insight with other parents they had after returning home from Mya's college tour.
"When we got home with all the email and texting and work and Instagram, we realized that 'Wow, the kids are about to leave soon, so what are we going to do?'" Jason Dunn said. "So our piece was, 'Let's put down our phone and try to connect, whether they like it or not.' Our jobs as parents isn't for them to always like us."
Tiffany Dunn created the "90 Minute Challenge" as a way to get her family to put away electronics, stop thinking about work or school and spend quality time together each day. She admitted the challenge can be difficult some days between her husband's schedule and her own as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Seven Hills Anesthesia.
"I think it's more about being aware of the importance of time," she said. "Time is so precious. What we wanted to do was to be more present. It's not so much the time, but being present."
As someone with a very public-facing job that involves long hours promoting Cincinnati nationally as a diverse city to visit, Jason Dunn said he is grateful his entire family is being honored for all they do.
"I think for me it is people get to see where my inspiration comes from," he said. "And a lot of times I might get credit because my job is very public, but people don't really realize that my family is really the motivation. My wife really holds down the fort. And I think the tremendous sacrifice that we go through on a day-to-day basis and to find ways to still be involved is no small feat. To see my wife and my daughter and my son makes us real for other people. And it gives them (his family) the opportunity to see what the community sees in us. Sometimes when you work in a vineyard it's hard to appreciate the sunlight. So, when you get honored and you stop and say, 'Wow, we did all this', and look back it gives you a sense of appreciation."
Jason Dunn began working for the CVB in 2004. Years earlier, the Columbus native moved to Cincinnati to attend the University of Cincinnati. His wife grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and attended UC at the same time as her future husband. The couple met while working as resident assistants in a dorm.
"I was playing some Frankie Beverly and cooking in the dorm," Jason Dunn said. "She (Tiffany) was walking past. She came in and told me to turn my music down. She ended up sitting down and talking and she fell in love with me."
"That's not how I remember the story, but I'll let him have this, his perception of it," Tiffany Dunn said with a smile.
The couple married in December 2006. Both said they've passed on multiple opportunities to move to other cities over the years.
"Actually, I think Cincinnati is more my home because I've been here for about 20 years," Tiffany Dunn said. "It was nice for me, because Youngstown is relatively small. Cincinnati has more of a family feel to it."
"We are a regular family who has had its ups and downs and still have room to grow as a young married couple," Jason Dunn added. "But you know, life has a way of putting you on a path to make you stronger. This is the Dunn family."