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"We don't need superheroes. We need real men who can hang out with a boy," an agency ad says.
Photo courtesy of Bryan Price
Bryan Price says being paired with Desmond Stuart is just like having another son. The family, gathered last year for a holiday picture, are (left to right) son-in-law Ron Halahan, Desmond Stuart, daughter Jenny Halahan, granddaughter Emory Price, daughter-in-law Mandy Price and son Scott Price. Bryan and his wife, Nancy, are in the back.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Some boys in the Roanoke and New River valleys and surrounding areas are getting big brothers.
Early results of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia's "60-Men-in-60-Days" campaign show that 18 men have signed up to serve as father figures and be role models to boys in the program.
The campaign continues through Nov. 29, and more men are still needed, said Jessica Scaggs, the program's marketing coordinator.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia currently ha ve 375 boys and girls matched with same-sex adults, according to the agency's website.
But 143 boys have been waiting to be matched with big brothers, some of them for as long as three years.
"We find it hard to recruit men to volunteer their time, asking for a commitment of the heart," Scaggs said.
Hence, the agency launched the 60 men campaign, using social media and other avenues to find big brother candidates.
"We don't need superheroes. We need real men who can hang out with a boy two to four times each month for at least one year," according to a news release for the campaign.
Bryan Price doesn't feel like a superhero and he doesn't mind testifying on behalf of the Big Brothers program.
Being a big brother results in few, if any changes in your lifestyle, says the 54-year-old father of two adult children.
Price, who builds tires for Yokohama Tire Corp., says that the eight years he's has been a "big" to Desmond Stuart is akin to having another son to hang out with.
His distress because he didn't make himself available to a Roanoke Valley athlete whose father had been killed is what originally led Price to the program.
Price, now a grandfather, had coached the teen, who also had played ball with Price's own son.
Price said he thought about the teen but didn't maintain contact after the father was killed. Later when the teen was killed, though, Price said he was tormented because he had not kept in touch with the teen.
"It was one of those things where you know stuff but never call or check. I felt like I kind of dropped the ball," Price said.
He then felt a need to reach out. "I felt like I should do something to help somebody else," Price explained.
He filled out an online application for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
Although they had met through sports when Price coached baseball, Desmond initially appeared hesitant about getting involved with another adult after being in other programs where the relationships waned, Price said.
But after a couple of visits, Desmond, now 16, "became part of my family," said Price.
Desmond is around for family dinners, weddings and other events.
The two also attend sports events and school activities and even get together when there's no planned activity.
"It's not like it costs you anything; you just do what you usually do," Price said of being a big brother.
He gets enjoyment himself, he said, admitting to participating in some activities he might not have otherwise.
Price said simple activities such as "showing him how to cook on an outdoor grill" make him feel like he's contributed to Desmond's growing up.
While the agency asks for only a year-long commitment, Price said he found that was improbable because "we kind of became part of each other's lives."
He said he's tried to convey to Desmond: "You've got extended family that chose to love you."
That's been an easy message for Desmond, a Salem High School junior.
Desmond had minimal expectations when his mom signed him up as a Little Brother.
"It was a little awkward at first but [Price] always asked me what I wanted to do," Desmond recalled.
He said that being paired with Price has been positive and that he intends to maintain a relationship with Price even after he ages out of the Big Brothers program.
Had Price not been around to influence him, Desmond said, "I don't know if I would have the grades I have or would have stayed out of trouble ... things like that."
Additionally, he said, the big brother-little brother connection between him and Price "definitely takes pressure off" his mother.
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