It only takes a "Buddy’ |

It only takes a "Buddy’

From left: Alex, Marika and Cruz

He’s telling the truth; his family is poor and he needs socks.

This year he’d really like a model airplane.

Mrs. Claus talked to Rhonda Atencio of the Eagle County Buddies Program, who called the kid’s mom, who said the kid had, in fact, been nice, not naughty. The plane landed under the kid’s tree on Christmas Eve.

Sometimes, all it takes is a “Buddy.”

The Buddies Program is one of those outreach programs that isn’t trying to hone your artistic sensibilities. They’re working on Mankind’s foundations – the children. They have 43 kids in the program, and 18 are on the waiting list, waiting for Senior Buddies to give about three hours a week and a little positive reinforcement. It’s a one-year commitment and you must be 21 years old or older.

A couple Fridays ago, the program visited Vail’s Adventure Ridge, where all the Buddies enjoyed all the fun you can have at that altitude. It’s the second year the program has had its Christmas party at the giant Vail Mountain playground. This year, about 125 people showed up, half Junior Buddies, half Senior Buddies – all giggling.

Calvary Chapel brought the band; the Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary Club bought everyone a gift.

“The average age of Adventure Ridge workers is 21,” said Atencio. “They didn’t know needs like that existed in Eagle County. Many other people don’t, either.”

Kids are referred from all over Eagle County by school counselors, area law-enforcement agencies and others. Most of the kids are just fine, but they would be even better if they spent a little time with a positive role model. The time can be spent doing about anything. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s with the kid.

“We’re lucky in this area; we have so much to do,” said Atencio.

The commitment, Atencio added, is minimal. The rewards are huge.

“These people need an additional, positive role model,” said Atencio. “It’s a support system already in place. Most of us have had mentors in our lives, and it’s time for us to be mentors in other people’s lives.”

Battle Mountain High School student Chris Atencio helps put together events and activities, which can range from simple hikes to Elitch’s or Adventure Ridge. He said he gets much more than he gives, and so do the organizations and businesses that pitch in with discounts and merchandise.

“It’s great how the community can come together and support such an awesome cause,” Chris said.

Two years ago the Buddies Program had 23 Junior-Senior Buddy matches. Now they’re up to 43, and the waiting list is growing.

Vail Resorts provides free lift tickets for all Buddies, and other area businesses are supporting the program.

Support Local Journalism