Buddy Mentors celebrates another successful year at annual Christmas party | VailDaily.com

Buddy Mentors celebrates another successful year at annual Christmas party

Randy Wyrick|randy@vaildaily.com |

How to help

For information or to volunteer as a Buddy Mentor, call the Bright Future Foundation at 970-949-7097, or go to brightfuturefoundation-ec.org.

VAIL — If Vail Mountain could smile, it would be grinning ear to ear during the Buddy Mentor Christmas party.

More than 150 kids and their Buddy Mentors converged on Adventure Ridge on Tuesday night for the annual event. The Bright Future Foundation is celebrating another successful year. For their Christmas party 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.

Cheryl Jensen has helped organize the party forever. Vail Resorts sponsors the annual event, held every year at Adventure Ridge.

“Sometimes it’s giving them someone to talk to, sometimes it’s just taking them somewhere to have some fun.”
Sabrina DeStefanis

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“Vail Resorts has been a great partner through all these years,” Jensen said.

Be a buddy

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.

You 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.

More and more kids are being referred to the Buddy Mentor program, through schools and other organizations. There’s a waiting list of kids. They need both men and women, since they have boys and girls on the waiting list.

Sabrina DeStefanis moved from New Jersey to Vail a couple years ago. She was looking for ways to get involved when she found the Bright Futures Foundation’s Buddy Mentor Program. She graduated from Kean University with a degree in counseling, so this was right in her wheelhouse.

Back in New Jersey she worked in a youth homeless shelter, transitional housing that gets kids off the streets and into somewhere safe.

“Sometimes it’s giving them someone to talk to, sometimes it’s just taking them somewhere to have some fun,” DeStefanis said.

WECMRD’s Edwards Field House is popular, and you can never go wrong with soccer, she said.

You don’t have to think of everything yourself, Victor Casas said. Once a month, they have big group functions that everyone attends. DeStefanis and Casas said they’ve both made close friends at those big functions.

Kevin is 8 years old and DeStefanis’ Buddy, and he isn’t hard to entertain. Atop Vail Mountain’s Adventure Ridge with tubing and everything else, ask him what he likes best and, like the sparkling eyed kid he is, he grins and points to the Christmas tree with dozens of presents piled around it.

Tis the season to be grateful

Jaiden Mitchell, 10, and her younger sister Kimberly Hardin, 8, walked away with an inflatable sled and a kit to weave bracelets. They moved to the area with their mom, Angel Mitchell, last spring from Alabama. They’d never seen snow, and Tuesday was the first time Kimberly had seen a live Santa, with whom she has now established a relationship when he handed her present to her.

The Bright Future Foundation gave Angel her present earlier that day. She wants to be an ultrasound technician, so the Bright Future board is picking up the tab for a couple of her classes at Colorado Mountain College.

The biggest buddy

Vail Resorts has been doing the Buddy Mentor party for at least 13 years, said Nicky DeFord, senior manager of community support and engagement and the company’s EpicPromise program. The night Adventure Ridge opens, the ski company turns it over to the Bright Future Foundation.

“Bright Future Foundation and the Buddy Mentors program changes lives for kids and their families. It provides so many amazing programs to families in Eagle County,” said DeFord, who works with nonprofit organizations. “Kids in this program do better in school and, most importantly, learn the value of a consistent and trusted relationship. Vail Resorts and EpicPromise 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@vaildaily.com.

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