In January 2002, Brad Carter was matched with a 9 year old boy named Dennis in the Tehama County Mentoring Program. Neither was quite sure what to expect from the other but both anticipated an adventure. Today, 8 years later, they are the longest running match in the program and a model example of the power and magic of mentoring.
Eight years is a long time in a child’s development and Dennis has grown from a boy to a young man. Throughout that time, Brad has been a consistent guide, helping Dennis through the loss of close family members and cheering him on at baseball, football and basketball games. It’s hard for Dennis to hone down the highlights of his relationship and he answers simply, “There are a lot of highlights.” What is crystal clear, however, is the affection and respect the young man has for his mentor. Dennis describes Brad as “A big brother/father figure, someone who really listens, who cares. He helps me on issues I wouldn’t know how to attack. Overall, he’s someone who is there no matter what.”
For Brad, helping Dennis through some of the big life lessons he’s dealt with so early in life has been a tremendous opportunity. “Mentoring Dennis has made me feel so fortunate,” he explains. While Brad initially signed up to mentor to give back to the community, it’s clear he has gained just as much as he’s given. His wife, Loretta, has kept a photo album of the time Dennis and Brad spend together and its grown thick over the years with memories from outings the two have made. From a young boy bundled up in a life jacket for his first boat ride, to the two dressed more formally for Dennis’ 8th grade graduation, to a proud Brad beaming at Dennis on the baseball field, the photos reveal a deep connection that mentoring consistently over time develops.
Dennis’ love of team sports is a success Brad can claim. Soon after meeting Dennis, Brad suspected that he’d do well as an athlete and that the activity would be an excellent outlet for the boy’s anger. Today, Dennis smiles widely as he talks of being a triple athlete—football, baseball and basketball — and has found a positive niche in high school. Season after season, Brad has helped Dennis gear up and get going. Their mutual pride in this success is palpable.