Buddy Mentor program growing | VailDaily.com

Buddy Mentor program growing

District Copurt Judge Tom Moorhead, center, was among those with the Bright Future Foundation helping with this year's Buddy Mentor Christmas party.

VAIL, Colorado – If Vail Mountain could smile, the annual Buddy Mentor holiday party would get it grinning.

More than 100 kids and their Buddy Mentors converged on Adventure Ridge last week for the annual event. The Bright Future Foundation is celebrating another successful year, and they bring in some prospective mentors, pair them with a kid for the night and see 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,” says Kerri Thelen, the youth advocacy coordinator with 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 figures if these kids get a little positive attention now, they might not need to deal with him later when he’s wearing his robe and holding a gavel, instead of a sweater and a huge serving spoon.

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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.

On Tuesday they started up the gondola at 5:15 p.m. and started tubing down Adventure Ridge moments later.

Around 6 p.m. Santa showed up, carrying a sack of toys big enough to give both Donner and Blitzen a hernia.

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.

Cheryl Jensen has organized the party forever.

“Vail Resorts has been a great partner through all these years,” said Becca Odom, the Bright Future Foundation’s business and development coordinator.

The Buddy Mentor program provides opportunities to match mentors with a younger buddy.

Mentors need to meet with their buddy for at least three hours each week.

“We do ask that they commit to at least a year. That creates consistency over an extended time,” Odom 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.

Buddies are referred to the program through counselors, schools, teachers, or anyone who thinks the buddy will benefit from a little extra attention and guidance.

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, Odom said.

They need both men and women, since they have boys and girls on the waiting list.

Vail Resorts has been doing the Buddy Mentor party for at least 10 years, said Nicky DeFord, senior manager of Vail Resorts Echo program.

The night Adventure Ridge opens, the ski company turns it over to the Bright Future Foundation.

“The Bright Future Foundation is loved community wide. They do incredible work in so many areas,” DeFord said.

VR’s Echo program covers the company’s charitable contributions, environmental programs and community engagement. They partner with more than 50 organization around the valley, DeFord said.

“We are big supporters of the Bright Future Foundation,” DeFord said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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