A mother’s story – brothers get the support they needed.

man and boy standing together with arms crossed

Mum Kendall tells the story of how her now-grown sons, Taine and Cullen, lost their Dad at the ages of 10 and 11 and the difference Big Buddy has made in their lives.

man and boy standing together with arms crossed
Big Buddy Corey and Little Buddy Cullen 2013
Boy with man with hand on shoulder fist pumping happily
Little Buddy Taine and Big Buddy Damien 20012

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 in September 2011 as we sat and waited with nervous excitement. We were lucky; both boys were being matched with Big Buddies and 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 I 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 22 and 23. 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 by watching their Big Buddies interact with their own children, my boys are learning how to be dads. Cullen was at his Big Buddy’s place recently and Corey’s son told Cullen he was his favourite person in the whole world – so nice because that is exactly how Cullen has always felt about Corey! 

Through these relationships, Big Buddy will 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.

Two men together smiling at the camera
Little Buddy Taine and
Big Buddy Damien. 2023
Man and young girl colouring together happily
Little Buddy Cullen with Big
Buddy Corey’s daughter. 2023

Right now there are around 8,000 boys in New Zealand without fathers in their lives. These boys are navigating the challenges of life without the steady hand of a father to guide them. 

With your help, Big Buddy can continue to match young boys with good men to offer friendship, support and a good male role model to look up to. 

With 130 young boys currently on our waitlist, your support today is needed more than ever. 

Your donation will help build confidence and resilience in the lives of boys whose fathers are not around.  


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