Buddies bolster bonds at holiday bash | VailDaily.com

Buddies bolster bonds at holiday bash

Matt Zalaznick

Marissa reaps the blessings of having been a good kid all year, as she receives a gift from the Jolly Old Elf, Kelly Bradley enjoys one of dozens of moments like it.

Volunteers and their buddies have close bonds. But those bonds got a little deeper last week when the Eagle County organization that pairs adult mentors with kids held its annual holiday party at Vail Mountain’s Adventure Ridge.

The Buddies Program of Eagle County will celebrate its 21st anniversary next year. Under the umbrella of The Resource Center, the Buddies Program of Eagle County provides children ages 6 to 17 with adult mentors to serve as positive role models.

“I see, on a daily basis, the effect these mentors have on their junior buddies’ lives, and it is such an amazing thing to be a part of,” said Scott Smith, director of the Buddies Program. “It’s amazing to see these kids’ – and adults’ – faces light up with excitement for this event. Adventure Ridge is our most popular event of the year.”

For the third year in a row, the Buddies Program of Eagle County partnered with Vail Resorts to host a holiday celebration for local children and their mentors. On Dec. 12, junior and senior buddies celebrated Christmas a little early by heading up the Eagle Bahn Gondola to preview Adventure Ridge for a night of snow tubing, ice skating, laser tag and more. Santa Claus made a special appearance bringing gifts for the children.

“The Buddies Program is an extremely important youth program in our community and it is our pleasure to share the holiday spirit with these kids,” said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer at Vail Mountain. “The Buddies Program Christmas party provides them with an opportunity to enjoy Adventure Ridge and spend some special time with the mentors who dedicate, in some cases, many years with these children, preparing them for the future.”

Mentors spend three hours a week with their buddies and develop a close relationship where the child has the opportunity to grow and learn from an adult. During their time together each week, buddies and their mentors attend events, participate in outdoor activities, focus on homework and spend quality time together with an emphasis placed on the child’s wishes and needs.-

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“It’s truly an honor to be a part of this program. Working with these kids has been one of the greatest things that’s happened in my life,” Smith said. “These kids teach us so much about ourselves, and about the things that are of real value in life.

“This year there are 43 mentor matches in the program,” Smith said. “In addition, right now, we have 25 youth ages 6 to 17 waiting for mentors who will make a one-year commitment to spend three hours a week riding bikes together, playing Frisbee in the park, or perhaps providing an ear for them through a challenging time.

For more information on becoming a mentor, call Scott Smith at The Resource Center at 949-7097.

In addition to support by Vail Resorts, McDonald’s provided gift certificates to the children, Starbucks is provided candy canes and cookies, Vail Movie Theaters donated movie tickets and the Vail/Eagle Valley Rotary Club has provided a donation for the purchase of additional holiday gifts.

Smith also thanked the band Breakaway and Vail Mountain School’s eighth-grade class for supporting the program.

Officers from the Vail Police Department also pitched in to help the Buddies Program this holiday season, said Moses Gonzalez, a town code enforcement officer.

Last Friday, Vail Police Department officers took 12 junior buddies and junior buddies-in-waiting out for pizza and treated them each to a shopping spree at Wal-Mart, Gonzalez said.

“A lot of the kids, when they got to Wal-Mart, were so interested in buying stuff for their family,” Gonzalez said. “It was really neat they were able to share their shopping spree with other people and their family.”

During the “Shop With A Cop” dinner the officers and the buddies talked about the spirit of Christmas and the holidays, Gonzalez said.

“One of the kids told one of our officers that she had the best time of her life and she didn’t want the night to end,” Gonzalez said. “The other ones were so appreciative of being able to shop and hang out with us.”

Along with Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut and the Vail Police Department, Smith thanked Judge Buck Allen and the municipal courts, and Vail Transportation for supporting the “Shop With A Cop” night.

“Tomorrow starts with our children – these kids are the leaders of tomorrow,” Smith said. “I have the greatest respect for our volunteers – they are the driving force behind the program, they are the reason we’re successful.”