VAIL, Colorado - Jordan Solis flashed a million-watt grin when asked what he gets from Shelly and Patrick Baldasare, his Buddy Mentors.
"Opportunities," Solis said instantly.
Jordan, a sixth-grader at Berry Creek Middle School, earned a perfect score on a science test earlier that day, so meeting Santa at Adventure Ridge was the biggest kick he'd had in five or six hours.
Jordan and his brother Ivan were among the hundreds of kids and their buddy mentors at this year's Bright Future Foundation's Buddy/Mentor Christmas party, held atop Vail Mountain.
Vail Resorts does the party. Howard Head does the gifts. Friends and employees of both Howard Head and Vail Resorts volunteer their time to help run it.
Santa arrived to do some tubing, carrying a sack of toys big enough to give both Donner and Blitzen a hernia.
Give the gift of help
As part of the Buddy Mentor program, Jordan knows a good thing when he has it.
"I get lots of opportunities to do new things I haven't done. I get to meet new friends and have fun," Jordan said.
Shelly and Patrick have two grown sons, ages 29 and 25. Shelly said they volunteer as mentors because they love children.
"We consider these boys our family," Patrick said.
"Everything is more fun with kids around," Shelly said.
Jordan has been a Buddy for four years. The Baldasares added his little brother Ivan.
They're among the lucky ones. The Bright Futures Foundation's Buddy Mentors has 52 kids in the program, with 35 more on the waiting list.
The Bright Futures Foundation is recruiting mentors as fast as they can.
The goal is simple: Pair at-risk kids with positive role models - they always need more senior buddies ... always.
More and more kids are being referred to the Buddy Mentor program, through schools and other organizations. Of course, that means they need more senior buddies. There's a waiting list of kids.
"There's an enormous need in the valley," said Cheryl Jensen, who founded the Buddy Mentor program and started the holiday party.
You commit to about three hours a week, and they teach you everything you need to know. You don't have to do anything spectacular. You just need to be around and interested, Odom said.
"It's not about spending money, it's about building relationships," Odom said. "There are many ways for a senior buddy to meet the needs of a child."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.