Dudes & T.A.C.O.S.: Growing, Connecting, & Helping Men Live Well

February 20, 2024
man speaking in front of a crowd at an event

Photo: Dudes & T.A.C.O.S. 2024 “Dude-iversary” Event

The Journey of Dudes & T.A.C.O.S. (so far!)

The Dudes and T.A.C.O.S. initiative was established in November of 2022 by Foundations Health and Wholeness as a way to positively impact the largest demographic group that completes suicides and are the least likely to seek out traditional mental health services in the community: middle-aged men.  T.A.C.O.S. is an acronym for a trailblazing adventure of connection outreach and support. The concept for Dudes and T.A.C.O.S. formed through a human-centered design project that involved empathy interviews, focus groups, and testing of prototypes. Through this process, middle-aged men reported the desire to be vulnerable, engage in deeper conversations, and build meaningful relationships. They also noted that they would show up if the environment was both fun and non-judgmental, a space where authentic messaging can be harmonized with a little humor and shoulder-to-shoulder activities.

A Dudes Taskforce, made up primarily of middle-aged men, meets monthly to plan connection activities, brainstorm mental health topics impacting men to integrate into meetings, and recruit subject matter experts to facilitate some training and discussion at monthly events. Typically, these monthly events are located wherever the diverse activities are scheduled.  Some examples include a pickleball court, bowling alley, volunteering at a food pantry, billiards hall, tailgating in a parking lot, hiking in the woods, and many others.  As the dudes gather, free tacos are provided which creates natural conversations and connections, not to mention just plain old delicious (who doesn’t like a taco?). Dudes then participate in whatever activity is scheduled for the month, which creates opportunities for rapport building, new and continued connections, and the ease of social anxieties. Following the chosen activity, a mental health topic is presented with small group discussions to follow. Dudes are offered practical tools as a “takeaway” to help with day-to-day struggles for the respective topic. A few past examples of these topics include suicide, anxiety, healthy sleep, the importance of caring for one’s mental health, the stigma of men and mental health, and dealing with trauma. We look forward to digging deeper and offering new tools each month.

A survey was conducted by Foundations about 7 months into the work to inform the effectiveness and approach of the work we’re doing with Dudes & T.A.C.O.S.  Here’s what we found:

  • 90% (18 of 20) agreed that their admiration for tacos has grown (of course!)
  • 85% (17 of 20) feel more likely to engage in conversation with a fellow dude on a “difficult” topic
  • 80% (16 of 20) have a better understanding of this community’s challenges related to men’s mental health
  • 75% (15 of 20) feel better equipped to help fellow dudes during challenging times
  • 72% (13 of 18) tried something new they otherwise wouldn’t have
  • 60% (14 of 20) feel more connected
  • 60% (14 of 20) feel better equipped to help themselves during challenging times

Early 2023 was heavily focused on connection development and rapport building following the launch. As the year went on, the work transitioned into some deeper small group discussions and more space to equip men to combat their own mental health struggles, along with skill development to help other men in their lives.

Photo: Dudes & T.A.C.O.S. Axe Throwing Event in 2023

There is a place for all dudes in this work—those who are struggling, isolated, desiring deeper relationships, those who need new mental health tools, and those that are doing well and can pour into other men with support and wisdom. The goal of this innovative work is to help men of all ages and backgrounds live well and provided the dude-friendly environment for them to do so! It’s such exciting and life-giving work, and we are constantly adapting, innovating, and enhancing through the feedback we receive from the men we serve.

We’re so thankful for the growth we’ve had over the last year, and we can’t wait to see where the journey takes us next. Cheers to the next trailblazing adventure of connection outreach and support.

To learn more about Dudes and our goal to help men live well, please visit


Until Next Time,

Ryan Good, President & CEO of Foundations Health and Wholeness