Buddy Mentor holiday party brings Adventure Ridge winter experience to kids
VAIL — If you can’t take a spin in Santa’s sleigh, then a tube ride down Adventure Ridge might be the next best thing.
And for the more than 100 kids who got to enjoy Adventure Ridge at the annual Buddy Mentors Program holiday party, not even frigid winter temperatures could cool the excitement.
With help from Vail Resorts EpicPromise, which put on the dinner and the tubing, and Santa, who was notified of the party by his friend Howard Head, the Buddy Mentors Program holiday party brought the classic holiday vacationers’ experience to a group of kids who, if not for that party, might have little idea what that feels like.
“A lot of these kids don’t get to ski or even go on the mountain,” said Yvonne Jacobs, senior buddy and chair of the Bright Future Foundation, which facilitates the Buddy Mentor Program. “It’s sort of foreign to them, which is surprising because we live in this valley, we think everybody goes to the mountain, but there are people who don’t. And so it’s a huge experience for them, just to ride the lift and go tubing and be on the mountain.”
It was at the Buddy Mentor holiday party several years ago when Jacobs was introduced to her buddy, Lexus, who was in middle school at the time and is now 16.
“We still stay very involved with each other,” said Jacobs. “She’s a part of my life; she’s a part of my family’s life. She and my son are like, ‘Oh, we’re cousins.’ So, it’s really been an impactful experience for our family.”
‘PRETTY LOW ON MENTORS’
Junior buddy candidates often come from homes where a single parent is trying to care for many children while working multiple jobs. For many junior buddies, there isn’t much time set aside for being a kid because they’re juggling babysitting responsibilities while being thrown into a life that is beyond their years.
“When we first got together, we just did kid stuff — going to the movies, ice skating,” Jacobs said. “I think it allowed her to see a side of herself that she maybe didn’t know about. It allowed her to be a kid for a little while.”
Another role of a Buddy Mentor is simply to listen. Most children, the program insists, need an adult whom they can confide in and share the day-to-day concerns of childhood. Those concerns can range from rather minor issues at school to rather serious trouble at home. For many would-be junior buddies, that adult isn’t always in the picture.
“Buddies are generally referred to us by someone in the community — it could be a teacher or another parent who sees a need for a kid, someone who needs some extra guidance,” said Drew Kartos, violence prevention coordinator for the Bright Future Foundation, who spearheads the Buddy Mentor Program. “We take those referrals and we assess their need for a mentor because, quite frankly, we’re pretty low on mentors. We have 25 kids on the wait list right now, and they’re bumped up based on need. Once I establish a match, taking into consideration several factors, such as interests and geographical location in town, we’ll schedule a meeting with the kid and their parents. That’s when we figure out what they’re going to do for the whole year, which is the initial mentor commitment.”
The Buddy Mentor Program will then help facilitate a goal or an activity for the mentorship pairing. This can be something academic, athletic, artistic or whatever other healthy activity the pair would like to pursue.
GOES BOTH WAYS
Many junior buddies will stay connected with their mentors into their high school years.
“Like with any kid going through teenage years, we’ll get together and have lunch,” Jacobs said. “Maybe she doesn’t want me to come to the movies with her anymore, but I’ll go to her basketball games and soccer games. I think more than anything, if something were to really go down, if she needed help, she knows she can call me.”
The rewards of a buddy-mentor relationship go both ways, Jacobs said.
“As a family, we’re just so grateful that she is part of our lives. For my kids to know her, to get to be close to someone who isn’t as lucky as we are, I think has been a really good thing. To see this is a normal life for a teenager in the valley, has been a really good thing,” she said. “What can we do to help her? We should get this for her. They’re always thinking of Lexus.”
In the Vail Valley, there is no shortage of children in need of mentors, but there is a shortage of mentors. Reliable and interested individuals can contact Kartos at the Bright Future Foundation at 970-763-7212 to get involved.
“Right now, we need good mentors,” Kartos said. “The program can keep growing because we have that wait list of kids. It’s just a matter of finding those good people who are reliable and consistent, people who genuinely care about kids and want to pay it forward.”