At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado we make it our mission to nurture the power of one-to-one mentoring relationships for children in or community that are facing adversity. A strong mentoring relationship can change a child’s life for the better, forever, and comes in many forms. Many of us may recall a coach or teammate that inspired and supported us growing up. This month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado is celebrating Sports Month, and highlighting our Sports Buddies Mentoring Program.
Sports Buddies provides positive adult role models for children, especially boys who might otherwise have to be turned away or wait months to be matched with a mentor because of the high need for more male volunteers in other programs. In addition, the program provides unique opportunities for children from low-income families to experience the health and developmental benefits of participatory and spectator sports. Many of these children do not have an opportunity to join sports teams or to otherwise participate in the wide variety of athletics available to them through Sports Buddies.
In honor of Sports Month, we are delighted to share the story of Brandon and Luis who are just one of the 431 matches we support through the Sports Buddies Program. Their story is an example of the proven power of mentoring. They have developed a bond that will last for years to come. It is proof of the impact Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado has been making in the lives of children since 1918. Fifteen percent of children in Colorado, young girls and boys just like Luis, live below the poverty line and are in need of a mentor.
Brandon and Luis were matched through Sports Buddies in 2010 when Luis was just nine years old. When Luis came into the program he was soft-spoken and shy at times. His mother, Christina, said he had trouble expressing himself. His father had been deported to Mexico when he was just a baby and he was the only boy in a house with five other siblings. Christina hoped to find an honest and trustworthy Big Brother for Luis. And, Brandon was just that…quickly becoming the person Luis looked up to.
Through meeting consistently at Sports Buddies events, the two have built a strong and enduring friendship. Luis said, “Brandon is like an actual older brother.” They especially enjoy competing in dodgeball and basketball, pushing each other to prove what they can do. Luis is thankful for Brandon and appreciates that he is open-minded. Luis said it’s nice to “have someone older to tell what I feel about things and someone I know will be there for me.” Brandon has taught him how to be the man of the house and how to be responsible.
After seven years of being matched Christina said Luis still looks forward to seeing Brandon. She said she can tell that Luis is comfortable around Brandon and she finds comfort knowing that Luis has someone he talks to. Christina knows there are conversations Luis doesn’t want to have with her that he’ll have with Brandon. She also appreciates how Brandon has been one of the only male role models in Luis’ life. “Luis respects Brandon. He looks up to him and has been a positive influence on his life. We’re thankful for him,” said Christina.
Today Luis continues to be soft-spoken at times. However, he is much more confident in himself and outgoing. He is kind, polite, engaging and has a good group of friends surrounding him. There’s no doubt in Luis or Christina’s mind that Brandon played a big role in this. Brandon and Luis are also great role models for their Sports Buddies peers. They come to events with a positive attitude and willingness to help set up / tear down for events and engage in the event. They show and verbalize their appreciation for our events, staff and each other.
It takes significant dedication to the program and each other to remain matched for so many years. “While their consistency and commitment to seeing each other at events is impressive, it’s the way they approach events that I appreciate most,” said Mele Fields, Program Specialist for the match. “This commitment shows that they both value their match and are willing to make it a priority to spend time together.”
Brandon began his journey as a Big after college as an outlet to give back and have a positive impact on the community. Brandon said he felt like he could relate to Luis because he was a quiet kid too. However, he enjoyed watching Luis start to open up and feel more comfortable with him. Brandon recognizes that Luis is not the only person who has grown as a result of this program. He said the experience has taken him out of his comfort zone. It’s also given him the opportunity to reflect upon his younger years and what went right and wrong in hopes of helping mentor the next generation. “I’ve learned to put others first, to set aside some time during my weekend to be there for someone else, and to get out there and be active and engaging,” said Brandon.
This year Brandon has been there to help Luis’s transition into high school and had an opportunity to be there for Luis in an even greater way. Luis started the mentor2.0 program at Sheridan High School and Brandon stepped up to the plate to be his mentor in that program, as well. Brandon is now able to work with Luis in a greater capacity to ensure he graduates high school with a well-thought-out post-secondary plan.
Brandon has truly been the epitome of consistency. He makes his time with Luis a priority, is flexible, dependable, engaged, and looks to make the most of every event with Luis. After many years together and the various life changes that come along the way, they continue to be a very strong match. Their relationship serves as a model for the power of one-to-one mentoring.
The Sports Buddies Mentoring Program has changed the lives of thousands of youth in metro Denver. With your financial support we can continue to grow the Sports Buddies Program, providing a life-changing mentor, and friend for more boys in Colorado. Please consider making a donation today.