The impact of mentoring is life long.  When you think about how simple it is to be a friend to someone and help to point them in the right direction, teach them a few new things and open their eyes to possibly a new way of doing certain things, it seems hard to believe that agency’s like Big Brothers Big Sisters don’t have enough volunteers to be mentors.  When you see the difference you make as a mentor it is inspiring and fulfilling. Mentoring gives you perspective in your own life, helps you grow as a person and opens your eyes to the difference your friendship can make in another person’s life.

As an agency that is over 100 years old nationally, and locally in Peel Region, 53 years old, it is truly inspiring to see how many of our Bigs and Littles stay connected well into our Littles adulthood.  This speaks clearly to the bond that is created when we match a Big and Little Brother or Sister together.

This past June we had the pleasure of meeting Rick Burns at our 34th Annual Golf Tournament at Lionhead Golf & Country Club.  Rick was a part of one of the teams from Konstant, who is a great supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and he took the time to come and introduce himself.  He explained that he was a Little Brother back in Kingston, and his eyes lit up as he described the profound difference his Big Brother Paul had in his life.  He said “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Paul”.

Rick, now 40 years old, was 11 years old when he was first matched with Paul. Rick lived alone with his mom who was dealing with some personal struggles and he had no male role models in his life.  Rick was facing adversity and described life in Kingston as challenging.  He saw how so many people stayed local and got themselves into trouble in one form or another. Rick wanted more and being matched with Paul was exactly what he needed to open his eyes to a whole other world.

At the time when Rick and Paul were connected, Paul was completing a Master’s degree, playing on the Queen’s football team and he was looking to give something back to the community and help someone younger.   Paul’s relationship with Rick exposed him to a range of activities including working out, hanging out with teammates, attending football games and being introduced to Paul’s family from Ottawa. Rick loved the comradery of the team and he aspired to be just like Paul. In fact, Queen’s winning the Vanier Cup while Rick and Paul were matched together was a moment they both noted as one of their fondest memories together. Paul had opened the door for Rick to the bond created when being part of a team, the sense of belonging and positive energy.

Unfortunately, 2 years later when Paul was finished his Master’s he moved to Boston to further his education.  Rick was heartbroken when Paul left and his life at home with his mom was becoming increasingly challenging.  This started a downward spiral for the next few years with Rick trying to find his way.  Paul had given him the strength to look beyond his life in Kingston, but he was still young.  In Grade 10 Rick reached a breaking point and he left Kingston to live with his father in Mississauga.  He finished Grades 11 and 12 and then moved out on his own at 18 years of age.  After 3 years of working for minimum wage, he knew he needed to further his education, so at 21 years old he went to Sheridan College in Oakville for Business/Marketing.

A year prior to college Rick, through a friend, joined an Australian Rules Football Sports Club.  Always longing for that bond of being a part of a team like Paul had, joining the football club was a pivotal turning point in his life. That team environment that Paul had introduced Rick to as a young man was to be realized with this amazing group of people. Paul had instilled a sense of belonging to something better and strong and Rick was able to find his place because of those moments. Through all the ups and downs of these years Rick and Paul kept in touch. Paul was always the person Rick knew he could count on and trust and go to for great advice. Paul had taught him to strive to be his best and gave him the encouragement to have the life he wanted.

The next few years saw great things happening for Rick.  Through his affiliation with the football club he got an interview at a leading Mississauga company, Johnston Equipment, and was hired at 23 years of age.  He continued to work for Johnston Equipment for 6 years and then moved to their affiliate company Konstant where his is today.  Rick now is happily married with 3 children – Lennox 8, Evelyn 5 and Gracie who just turned 2 years old. Today, Rick and Paul stay connected and chat 4 or 5 times a year and try to see each other as often as possible even though Paul is a distance away in Boulder, Colorado.  To this day Rick attributes his success with Paul opening his world to knowing he could have more, and for never giving up on him.

Paul is so happy to have been there for Rick and is proud to see what a good husband and caring father he is today.  “Mentors are hard to come by, but mentors are so important to help you find your path in life and in your career. They are absolutely essential.  Being a mentor helps you grow as an individual and gives you a whole other perspective in life,” says Paul.

During this month of National Mentoring Month we hope that you will make that step to be a mentor for a young person who needs your support and guidance. The rewards are unlimited!

Here’s to a lifetime of friendship for Rick and Paul!