Kids Friendship Stories
I vividly remember the day in 2003 that I met Dee. My children were grown, and I wanted to do something to give back to the community. I saw an ad in the local Pennysaver for Compeer. It said that there were people striving for good mental/emotional health who needed a caring friend for just a few hours a week. Sounded easy enough, I could do that.
I was interviewed, completed a background check, and received great training. Then I learned I’d been matched with a five year old, and today we would meet for the first time.
Dee was an adorable little girl, and she proudly handed me a picture she had drawn at the social worker’s office. We made plans to meet the following Saturday to do something together. This was going to be a breeze, I thought naively.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this little girl didn’t expect me to be dependable, and I decided to show her that I was in for the long haul. She was surprised every time I returned to pick her up. I found out that she had come to her new home in a chaotic manner leaving the few toys she did have behind. She didn’t have anything to call her own, and had never gotten to go through the normal stages of development. In some ways we had to start at the beginning and let her have some of those experiences she’d missed out on. Dee held onto baby things; her toddler cup with the cover, the booster seat, and a light-up spoon she got from the cereal box. We made sure her special things were always there, and eventually she learned to trust that life could remain constant. In time Dee began to blossom, and I feel so blessed to have been a part of that process. Our relationship was not without difficulties, but we learned to handle them together.
Today Dee is a wonderful, kind and caring seventeen year old with big plans for the future. We still enjoy our time together, and she has told me often that she looks forward to our Saturdays. We have three photo albums filled with pictures of the things we’ve done. Dee will call me every time the opportunity arises. It’s always good to hear her voice, and she always ends with “I love you.” Recently she said to me, “If it wasn’t for Compeer, I’d be dead.”
When I first contacted Compeer, I really didn’t understand the magnitude of the power of friendship. Today I am a true believer, 100% convinced that having a good friend to talk to, and share your life with, truly does make the difference. Being a mentor has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Written by a Compeer volunteer
Xavier was born to a loving, devoted single mother in Buffalo’s tough Riverside section. He was wanted, love and cherished. He reached his developmental milestones, and was growing well, or so it seemed. When he started school, his teachers noticed that he was different from his classmates. Xavier was labeled as having emotional problems, placed in a special school, and began getting counseling. His 5th grade special education teacher referred him to Compeer when he was 10 years of age.
Within months Xavier was matched with a mentor who visited him every week at school and had lunch with him. At the end of the school year, they continued meeting weekly. Rather than being isolated, he felt belonging. Our one-to-one mentoring program and social skills classes taught Xavier to celebrate life’s experiences.
Now 15, Xavier has grown into a sturdy young man. He is now learning to play guitar, on his school’s track team and chorus, earning high 90’s in his classes and working part-time in the summer. When asked, Xavier has said that he likes being in Compeer. He says that he is not as angry anymore, because of his mentor.
Before Jonah got involved with Compeer at age 9, his life was defined by pain and loss. When he was just 5 years old, his father killed his mother, burned their house down. Jonah and his siblings went to live with relatives who recognized he needed help. Understandably, he was struggling to cope the trauma and change in his young life.
Jonah’s counselor referred him to Compeer, to experience a trusting relationship. Within a month Jonah was matched with his Compeer mentor, Tom. Over time, Tom earned Jonah’s trust through his kind and consistent ways. Our one-to-one mentoring program and social skills classes helped Jonah feel confident and competent. Our family support program empowered the people who became is adopted parents to celebrate Jonah’s strengths, and access services to help with his special education and mental health needs. People who see JONAH now say he is loving, always ready with a smile and a hug.
Now matched over 6 years, Jonah is thriving, and still meeting with his Compeer mentor weekly. He has joined his school’s chorus, and looks forward to coming to Compeer events. Recently, he was able to talk to another Compeer kid whose mom also died when she was just a child. They were able to connect and support each other.
Jonah, while laughing at Tom’s antics remarked:
“You know, sometimes I think I am the adult in this relationship!”