Around a year ago, I got the email that I would be matched with a 10-year-old buddy. I was excited to begin, but that feeling did not come without nervousness.
First was the parent meeting. It took about 2 minutes before my fears were alleviated and I realized that this was going to be a great experience. My buddy’s parents are the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met. My buddy always has a great attitude and a big smile, so the match was positive from the beginning. Yet over the next months, I began to doubt whether I was actually having a meaningful impact on my buddy’s life. He always seemed happy to see me, but he is always happy to meet anyone; He is just that great of a kid. I was looking for something that would undeniably prove my impact, yet life does not always present itself in obvious ways. My buddy has taught me that it is the little steps that show great progress. I began to appreciate the small bits of improvement: being able to order his favorite vanilla shake on his own, and having him say that he is starting to like school now. What my buddy had showed me has carried over to my personal life. I started feeling more fulfilled as I began to appreciate the little things that make each day great. While I like to think I have made a great impact on my buddy, it is a close competition between who has helped the other more. There is no experience like Athletes for Kids and I feel that the world would be a far happier place if we all had a person, like my buddy, in our lives.
We were reluctant to join AFK at the beginning. We don't know if it was going to be a good fit for us. Our son has a disability. You wouldn't think it just by looking at him. Speech does not come easy for him, so he tends to be guarded, shy and quiet to people other than family. We wanted more for him, so we registered with AFK.
The first time I met Emmet, he appeared nervous but confident. He asked the usual question of what we expected from the mentorship. The meeting was brief, but he was so kind, so we said yes. The rest, as you would say, is history.
Emmet, from the start, has shown a sense of responsibility and commitment to our son. He makes our son feel joy and he once supported him by attending our son's school concert. Our family is aware that Emmet has a busy schedule, but he makes time to see our son and the time they spend with each other is always fun.
I asked our son, what do you think of Emmet? He said, Emmet is a friend. I asked why? He said, I can be myself and just relax. Emmet makes things interesting when they're together, so our son is encouraged to engage and have fun. Emmet has taken the time to get to know our son. Some of the fun things they have done are, making spaghetti (our son’s favorite food), carving pumpkins for Halloween, walking and playing in the park, baking cookies, visiting the animals on the farm or just playing games at home. Emmet has helped build our son’s self-esteem and confidence. Even his 5th grade teacher noticed the growth he made this year. Our son has learned to relax with other people and open up so that he has more friends now.
AFK, in so many ways, has given us opportunities to explore and experience other possibilities that we would not normally get or even think of. If someone asked me if they should join. I would say "Do it". It'll change your life in a big way. We got Emmet for our son and, we got AFK in the bargain too. AFK has supported us and made our lives more interesting and fun.