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The internet's dad lives in Kent and wants you to feel loved

Rob Kenney's YouTube channel "Dad, how do I?" has more than 4 million subscribers. #k5evening

KENT, Wash. — In his Kent backyard, Rob Kenney readied his homemade cue card and props then tapped “record” on his iPhone.

"Hey kids! So, today I'm going to show you how to fish,” Kenney said, gesturing to the poles and bait on his patio table.

He had a live audience of two – his dogs sit at his feet. But tens of thousands of people will watch his recording later on his instructional YouTube channel.

Kenney is known as the “Internet Dad” (a Google search of that term immediately brings up his name). But he’s also a self-described introvert who, through genuine concern for others, unexpectedly achieved digital fame during the pandemic.

His channel “Dad, how do I” has more than 4 million subscribers, drawn by his straightforward tips and sincere encouragement. Videos include “How To Unclog A Sink,” “How To Bake Cinnamon Rolls,” “How To Jump Start A Car” and “I am proud of you!” –  the kind of things he shared with his children before they grew up.

"I pictured one of my kids in the other room saying, 'Dad, how do I,' and that's how I came up with the name,” Kenney said. "This channel has allowed me to continue my dad-ness, because my kids were out of the house and I was feeling a little lost. Honestly, being a dad is everything to me."

But his own father was not a role model. He left his wife and eight children when Kenney was just 14 years old.

"I learned how to tie a tie from my roommate when I was 19,” Kenney said. "All those little things that I kind of picked up along the way, there's a certain amount of pain that came through with each of them, because I remember struggling with lots of different things."

He never wanted anyone else to struggle. So – at his daughter's urging – he posted his first videos in April 2020. They included advice about tying a tie and shaving, and he began each of them with the greeting, “Hey kids!”

His daughter shared them in a couple of online “kindness” groups and almost immediately, they resonated.

"I was like, 'Whoa – I have 300 subscribers that are watching me. This is a little scary, but kind of cool,” Kenney said, laughing. "When we got into May it was like, 'Okay, I got 100,000. Now I got 400,000. Now I got 800,000.’ Then it's over 1 million and I'm like, 'What is happening here?'"

In just two months, Dad, how do I officially went viral.

Kenney was featured on national newscasts, in major publications. He got to interview Kevin Hart about a movie. He published a book.

But despite all the attention, his goals remained pure: share practical advice and unapologetic emotion. His video telling viewers, “I love you. I’m proud of you. God bless you,” has more than 1.4 million views.

"There's so much more to being a dad than fixing things or showing you how to fish. You've got to share your heart,” Kenney said. "The need for it is heartbreaking, and if you spend any time on my channel reading the comments from people? I still get teary-eyed."

Comments include, "I never realized how much I needed someone to say 'I am proud of you,’” "I'm 55 and grew up without my dad. This is the best idea ever,” and "I just cried watching a man fix a toilet. I lost my dad five years ago... we need more people like you in this world."

"It's so much bigger than me and I'm still trying to get my head around the impact it's had,” Kenney said.

A self-described introvert, he may never fully embrace the notoriety. But he considers the YouTube channel a calling.

The internet can be so dark, but Kenney is proof there is always light.

"It's about us," Kenney said. "We're all in this together. Let's figure it out and be good humans. Because if everybody did their part, the world would be a much better place. I've been blessed to be able to be a dad, and now I get to continue that."

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

    

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