Wellington Mum Kendall has kindly agreed to share her story of the difference Big Buddy has made in the lives of her two now grown-up sons Taine and Cullen. Thank you Kendall, your uplifting and beautifully written story is just what we all need right now!
When my boys lost their Dad, with it, they also lost any hope of a future with him. He had been in and out of their lives until he passed away when they were 10 and 11. Watching the boys suffer and not being able to take away their pain was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. They both handled their grief differently. Taine, my youngest, was visibly cut up. Every night he would go to bed then get up crying and come to me for comfort. Even with counselling and support, this went on for months. It was heartbreaking and felt like it would never end. Cullen, on the other hand, locked everything inside and carried on as if nothing had happened. He never cried or wanted comfort. He wouldn’t talk about his Dad or how he was feeling.
Then he started saying things like his life wasn’t worth anything. That absolutely broke my heart, no kid should feel like that at 11 years old. I hate to think what would have happened to my boys had their Big Buddies not come into our lives. I honestly don’t think Cullen would still be here.
Let me take you back to that first day as we sat and waited with nervous excitement. We were lucky, both boys had both been matched with Big Buddies and were meeting them on the same day. And as we sat waiting, the feeling of hope grew. I worried, wondering if I had done the right thing, but I didn’t want the boys to see or feel my trepidation so put on a happy face. As a single Mum, I knew there were things outside of my capabilities. A Big Buddy would be able to teach them manly stuff, like how to fix a car, and build stuff. Things I had no interest in or knowledge of.
We met Corey first. A builder and volunteer firefighter. He was quiet and reserved but he and Cullen clicked from the start. There was never any doubt about their friendship. Damo arrived soon after. Loud and outgoing, he brought a rugby ball for Taine and showed him how to kick and pass it.
Every day after school, Taine would be in the backyard kicking and throwing that ball. I used to watch him as I made dinner and realised that he had missed not having a father figure in his life more than he ever let on.
As soon as we met Damo and Corey, my worries disappeared and I knew I’d done the right thing. At first, it was a bit awkward and didn’t feel natural watching strangers drive away with my children, but the bonds between us all quickly grew and my boys were happier than I’d seen them in a very long time. They loved the adventures they had with their new best buddies.
The matches were perfect – not only was each boy paired with the one that suited their personality best, but they also looked alike! Cullen and Corey are both tall and slim with fair hair, while Taine and Damo both have dark hair and are tall and more solid! There were lots of arguments at the beginning, with each boy thinking he had the coolest Big Buddy! It was awesome to watch. The changes in my boys, which I never could have anticipated, came quickly. Throughout his whole life, Taine had walked around like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. This suddenly lifted and there was a lightness about him, which he still carries now.
Cullen stopped talking about his life not being worth anything. His positive, happy attitude returned and he was excited about life again. I still find it hard to believe that spending just 2 hours a week with a child can make such an enormous, life-changing difference. And they weren’t doing anything special – just going to the park, fishing, bush walks, that kind of thing. Laughing and being present.
This year, my boys are celebrating their 10th anniversary with their Big Buddies. They still hang out regularly and are great mates. When I signed my boys up to Big Buddy, I thought they would learn manly stuff but my perception of manly stuff changed. It’s not about fixing things and building stuff (although they do sometimes do that), it’s about turning up, caring for each other, being there through good times and bad, cheering each other on, and spending time together.
My boys are now 20 and 21. They are kind, well-adjusted, young men both with positive futures. They wouldn’t be the men they are today without Corey and Damo in their lives, and I’ll always be grateful to Big Buddy for this. Corey and Damo now each have two children so my boys are learning how to be Dads. Big Buddy will now become a generational change in our family. Imagine the effect this programme will have on communities as Big Buddy continues to grow and support more young boys. Big Buddy is proof that small things really can make an enormous impact.
Our waitlist of boys is growing and we are in need of more Big Buddies to make a difference. If this sounds like you or someone you know please click here to find out more. If you’d like to make a donation to Big Buddy and help us continue making a difference click here.
Story: Megan Horsburgh