To most people, Dave Curran would have his hands pretty full heading the operations and finances for The Vodafone Warriors, and being a husband and a father to three school-age children. But driving along one day mid 2019, he heard an ad on the radio that awoke a long held desire to help people in need. Big Buddy was asking for male volunteers to spend time with boys without dads in their lives; Dave got on the phone straight away.
The advertisment featured one of Big Buddy’s own Little Buddies, Aidan, reciting some lines from a heart-rending poem – Your Son Jim was gifted to the organisation years before, then archived. It also featured the boy’s own Big Buddy Roman, another busy man who nevertheless gives some time each week to a local boy who truly benefits from his time and attention.
Dave recounts what it was about making a hands-on difference to young lives that had such immediate appeal for him.
“I had definitely wanted to do something to help people for a long time. When I was 12 years-old, a close friend of mine was in a car crash. He was 12 too, and I remember very strongly wanting to help as I looked round and saw all these other kids in hospital beds around him.
“But over the years I realised “you can’t just decide that you want to help people in hospital and walk in there and say ‘I’m here to help you’….you’d get some pretty funny looks!”
Furthermore, when you do want to help people, there isn’t necessarily a bright light showing you how, or even where you can do that, says Dave. He does recognise a wealth of other charities and causes that one can help, but Big Buddy seemed to offer helping others with a “personal touch”.
“There are a lot of great charities, but when you look at many, you might only be able to donate – the Red Cross for instance. With Big Buddy, you can get directly involved. Big Buddy makes it easy to help people in that sense.”
Dave’s name is one of almost 900 others on the Big Buddy volunteer register, who’ve stood in as the man to look up to and rely on, when biological fathers of 7-14 year-old boys have been absent. Over 300 men are currently mentoring each weekend for a few hours, in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Big Buddy CEO Paul Burns says the men who step up are as many and varied as the boys that mums and grans sign up. But the one thing they share are good values and the desire to contribute to a boy’s life in their own way. This is why the screening process is followed with careful profile matching once a Big Buddy is accepted.
Dave is well aware of the importance of helping shape a boy into a man with values and, not surprisingly for someone in the sports industry, he claims that team sport can have a lot to contribute here.
“Team sport is a good thing. It teaches individuals to work together, and working together is a good life skill to have. Rainbow (pictured left) plays rugby, although he did tell me he loves playing soccer and was thinking of playing that this year. He also plays basketball and loves being outside, the outdoors, doing things.
“If you like, Big and Little Buddies are working together on something, for each other. So much of what we do in life is actually about teamwork.”
Their usual plan for their weekend outings might be simple walks in nature and trips to the beach, sometimes with the dog along for the ride.
“But Rainbow has really loved a few things we’ve done, such as going to North Head in Devonport and looking around all the battlements. One of the next scheduled trips is going over to Rangitoto Island and walking up to the top.”
It’s not all about Dave setting an example for Rainbow; he is actually getting a few lessons from his young charge: “Once, I’d planned to take Rainbow along to the playground, but it turned out he didn’t want to go. He turned to me and said, ‘Dave, the playground is for me. But I would like to do something that you enjoy too. I want to go and do something that’s for both of us’.”
Dave is aware of that sense of responsibility that a Big Buddy can develop towards a Little Buddy and says that he’s thought about it, given he still has three children under 16 at home himself. However, he stands by the ‘village to raise a child’ approach and says he would love to see more men taking part.
“Big Buddy is a really great programme. I’ve told people to find out more, get involved, because it is so worthwhile and rewarding.”