On September 24th, I’ll be riding 50 miles in the Rodman Ride for Kids to raise $1,500 for Mass Mentoring. I’ve actually never biked more than 25 or 30 miles at any time, so why I am going the extra mile(s)? Because I know firsthand the impact that mentoring has had on a child’s life – and my life too.
Starting back in 1991, I was a Big Brother through both Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mass Bay and the Old Colony YMCA. For 10 years, I was matched with Tony, who lived in challenging circumstances, moved frequently and had no other adult males in his life. Spending time with Tony not only opened my eyes to the world that some kids like him live in, but it taught me about the importance of consistency in a child’s life. Literally, half of being a successful mentor is just showing up every week. I learned the other half consisted of being the biggest believer in his potential to do something positive with his life and exposing him to people, places and things he would never otherwise experience. When I got married in 1999, Tony was one of the best men in my wedding. Although we haven’t been in contact recently, when I last saw him he was living on his own, getting technical training on HVAC systems and otherwise enjoying life.
In 1999, I became a Power Lunch mentor through Boston Partners in Education
where I read aloud each week over a three-year period to a young boy named Jamal. Even after he “graduated” from Power Lunch in 4th grade, Jamal and I stayed in touch over the years and my family and I were honored to attend his high school graduation party about a year ago. Jamal is about to enter his sophomore year at University of New Hampshire where he is thinking of majoring in social work. Those years reading to Jamal taught me just how important reading to children really is, especially when I had my own children. My oldest son Noah is an avid reader at 9 years old and even started his own Red Sox blog. I know my relationship with Jamal has made me a better parent.
Both of these mentoring experience lead me to want to do more for the mentoring field. In 2005, I became a board member of Everybody Wins! Metro Boston, which operates the Power Lunch program locally and then the director of Everybody Wins! USA, the national office of Everybody Wins programs. This past January, I was thrilled to join Mass Mentoring to help expand youth mentoring throughout Massachusetts.
To paraphrase Celtics legend Bill Russell, mentoring is not about helping “other people’s children.” The children in mentoring programs live in the same communities where we live or work. What happens to those children impacts all of us. I’ve also learned that mentoring is not just about teaching children but being open to learning new things about yourself. And finally, mentoring is not about taking time out of your life, it’s really time added to your life. Whether you are reading to a child, making cookies, throwing a ball around or visiting a museum, I guarantee that those 1-2 hours a week are some of the most stress-free and meaningful hours of your week.
So I’m riding this year for Mass Mentoring so that we can help mentoring programs, and the children they serve, thrive and grow through high-quality mentoring experiences like this ones I’ve had. To donate to my ride, please visit my donation page. Want to ride as part of the Mass Mentoring team? Visit our team page.
Rich Greif, Mass Mentoring – Director of Marketing & Partnerships