The journey to being a Big Buddy

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One of our well known mentors shares the gradual journey from new dad to Big Buddy.

Auckland’s Eugene Lowrie has been a committed role model for two different boys in the last three years. First, he was Big Buddy to young Sam, then when Sam and his mother moved down to the Waikato, Eugene took James under his wing – pictured above after winning a Big Buddy car rally.

As Eugene tells it, these boys might have very different personalities, but what they each have in common is a loving mother who wanted a decent male role model for their boys to spend time with. Like other boys in the Big Buddy community, neither of them have a father in their lives.

“James and I hit it off immediately and there really wasn’t a period where we had to think too hard about finding things to do. We’ve been mountain biking, skating, snowboarding, walking the dog, catching a movie, playing basketball, golf, paddle boarding and all sorts of other fun activities. James is a pretty unique, very confident boy with a great sense of humour.”

What’s extraordinary about these inspiring and fun-filled relationships is they’re not formed randomly, they’re ‘matched’ carefully. Big Buddy’s expert team find men who can spare a few hours most weekends and puts them through a thorough screening process. This makes sure they are decent guys who will be able to commit to showing up regularly in a boy’s life.

In New Zealand, Big Buddy estimates there are 8000 boys who have no contact with Dad, or even a substitute father figure; this equates to roughly 800 in Wellington, similar in the Waikato and coming up to 3000 in Auckland.

As Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said in his days as a Judge, boys of a certain age seek out older male role models like “heat-seeking missiles”. It’s Big Buddy’s aim to help vulnerable boys develop the character and confidence they need for a fulfilled life through watching how a man of sound character lives his life.

Eugene was in the ITM office when he first heard about Big Buddy – ITM and GJ Gardner had begun sponsoring the Big Buddy organisation and through their Big Buddy Big Auction, was going to make opening a Waikato office possible.

“I read about the Big Buddy program in our trade-mailer, Building Business, and thought, ‘now this sounds like a fantastic idea’.”

To be fair, Eugene’s desire to help others began years before, and having his own children created a greater sense that he needed to do “something for others at some point in my life.” Obviously when his girls were younger the timing just wasn’t quite right.

“As my kids grew up and began spending more and more time out and about at the weekends it felt like the right time for me to do something for other kids that might be hanging out to get out and do stuff but just don’t have the opportunity. That’s when I saw the article about Big Buddy.

“I had my wife and teenage girls full support – in fact they were incredibly proud of me for doing something so meaningful for others – and of course that of my employer. I had to get references off my manager, relatives, friends and a few other people. Like me, everyone thought being a Big Buddy was a great idea.”

Eugene hasn’t stopped at helping James directly. He recently gave Big Buddy even more of his time to appear in social media and larger-than-life bill-stickers for the #3lifelessons publicity campaign.

If you’d like to share a few wise life lessons with a boy whose dad is not around, have a look at bigbuddy.org.nz, checkout @bigbuddynz social media or call 09 828 1358.

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