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January 30, 2013

Mentors serve as role models to children

STILLWATER, Okla. — As National Mentoring Month winds down, the time and dedication of hundreds of volunteers with Big Brothers/Big Sisters continues.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Oklahoma served more than 1,900 children in 2011. Locally, Stillwater’s chapter has seen success as well.

“The major advantage to Stillwater is that what we can say for this past year that we were able to serve almost 140 children who needed a positive adult role model in their lives,” Area Director Stephanie Fry said. “So, anytime someone agrees to consider being a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the impact that they are having is with that positive role model (aspect of) helping these kids make better decisions in life just simply with their friendship.”

Fry said studies show children being mentored through the program are less likely to use illegal drugs, skip school and are more likely to attend and graduate from a four-year university.

The pool of volunteers is dominated by those attending college themselves.

“We have a lot of volunteers that are college students and what I love about that is that it shows that generation of college students is very philanthropic and community-minded,” she said. “That makes up about two-thirds of our volunteer pool.”

The other third of volunteers range in age from mid-20s to mid-60s.

“What we’re finding is more women want to volunteer than men do, so we’re looking for more men volunteers because we always have little guys waiting on our list,” Fry said.

One Stillwater resident decided to take that challenge 15 years ago and was rewarded with a life-long friendship.

Darrell Dougherty attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting in December 1995 while attending Oklahoma State University. A representative from Big Brothers/Big Sisters spoke to the group.

“They said they needed both boys and girls matched, but they were always really short on guys,” he said. “Next January, I went in and started through the application process and it was that spring that Adam and I were matched.”

Adam Furbee was in elementary school at the time and lived with his mother.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping with the youth,” Dougherty said. “Especially the young boys at church and when they started talking about some of these guys were from single parent homes, especially the dad not in the home, it struck a chord with me.”

The first interaction between the two was as expected when two strangers meet.

“Our first meeting, he was super shy,” Dougherty said. “I couldn’t hardly get him to talk.”

However, as time passed, Furbee told Dougherty that he enjoyed basketball and that became one their first activities.

“To this day, I vow that I let him beat me in HORSE and he said he beat me in HORSE,” Dougherty said.

As years passed, Dougherty continued to mentor Furbee and became a part of his life.

“I’ve been to birthday parties and Christmas and Easter and everything with his mom (and family) ... and vice versa,” he said.

Eventually, Furbee outgrew the age limit for the program and graduated high school, going on to attend WyoTech in San Diego, where he now lives. However, this wouldn’t be the last time the two would talk or see each other.

Two years ago, Dougherty was Furbee’s best man in his wedding. Dougherty said he never expected that young boy would grow up and ask him to be a part of such a big occasion in his life.

“Part of it was Adam and I would spend a couple of our weeks a month just the two of us,” he said.

“He had a heart of gold and he wanted to spend (time) taking some of the other guys who didn’t have matches to do something.”

Dougherty said he still keeps in touch with Furbee.

“Since he moved to San Diego, it’s obviously more difficult,” he said. “We’re Facebook friends.”

Dougherty said he hopes Furbee can attend his wedding in March. He said he never expected what he would get in return for a few hours each week.

“You go in thinking I can help and the reality is you get more out of it than they do by a long shot,” he said.

National Mentoring Month ends Feb. 1, but for mentors it will come and go. They will continue to serve young children in learning important values.

“We just want to thank all of our mentors that work with our kids,” Fry said.

As for Dougherty, he has advice for those thinking about helping.

“I would encourage anyone who is even considering it ... to not give a second thought because there’s kids that need that, need that time,” he said.

Two upcoming Big Brothers/Big Sisters events will provide an opportunity for those wishing to mentor — The Big Night on March 1 and Bowl for Kids’ Sake April 14-17.

For more information, call Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Stillwater at 624-9922.

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