VAIL — If Vail Mountain could smile, the Buddy Mentor holiday party would get it grinning.
More than 100 kids and their Buddy Mentors converged on Adventure Ridge Tuesday night for the annual event. The Bright Future Foundation is celebrating another successful year. The foundation brings in some prospective mentors, pairs them with a kid for the night and sees if it’s a fit.
Look around the banquet room at Adventure Ridge. Kids are carrying on conversations with adults. Some are learning; all are laughing.
“You can change a life, and that can change so many others,” said Becca Gould, of the Bright Future Foundation.
Vail Resorts sponsors the annual event, held every year at Adventure Ridge. Howard Head Sports Medicine helps run it. Volunteers come from both organizations, and lots of other places. A district court judge is a regular in the serving line. He said he figures if these kids get a little positive attention now, then they might not need to deal with him later when he’s wearing his robe and holding a gavel, instead of a sweater and wielding a huge serving spoon.
The Buddy Mentor program is part of the Bright Future Foundation. 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.
Right now, they have 47 matches and 25 more kids on the waiting list. The kids are spread all over the valley, from Vail to Dotsero.
Cheryl Jensen has helped organize the party forever.
“Vail Resorts has been a great partner through all these years,” Gould said.
Be a buddy
The Buddy Mentor program matches mentors with a younger buddy.
Mentors commit to about three hours a week for a year, 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, Gould said.
“We ask that they commit to at least a year. That creates consistency over an extended time,” Gould said.
Buddies and mentors do all sorts of things. Skiing and hiking are popular. So is cooking. If you’re stumped for something to do, they’ll help with suggestions.
They’re careful about who gets to be with these kids, as one would be in this day and age. Once you pass muster, they match you with a buddy who shares your interests, so everyone is happy, Gould said.
They need both men and women, since they have boys and girls on the waiting list.
“It’s not about spending money, it’s about building relationships,” Gould said. “There are many ways for a senior buddy to meet the needs of a child.”
“There’s an enormous need in the valley,” said Jensen, who founded the Buddy Mentor program and started the holiday party.
The biggest buddy
Vail Resorts has been doing the Buddy Mentor party for at least 12 years, said Nicky DeFord, senior manager of Vail Resorts Echo program, which works with nonprofit organizations.
The night Adventure Ridge opens, the ski company turns it over to the Bright Future Foundation.
“Bright Future Foundation provides so many amazing programs to families in Eagle County,” DeFord said.
“Buddy Mentors is changing lives,” DeFord said. “Kids in this program do better in school and most importantly, learn the value of a consistent and trusted relationship. We absolutely love what this program is doing for Eagle County kids and will continue to find ways to bring buddies together.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.