With four sisters, Michael Castro really wanted an older brother. Wade Frisbie is the youngest of three brothers and really wanted to be someone’s older brother. For the past six years, the two have gotten exactly what they wanted and needed as little brother and big brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, Inc. program. The relationship has provided benefits to both that go beyond just filling a role they felt was missing in their lives.
Frisbie, a Stapleton resident and financial advisor, had wanted to volunteer with the organization for a long time to be able to “show a child there’s a lot of opportunity in the world.” Castro, 13, wanted the older brother experience saying, adamantly, “I don’t have a brother whatsoever! I wanted to do something that would simulate what it was like to have an older brother.”
After registering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Frisbie went through a background check and answered a lot of questions about his interests to determine mutual interests with available children. “The process is really good at trying to match like-to-like,” he says. It took four months before he was matched with a then 7-year-old Castro whose first Big Brother relationship hadn’t been a good match. Castro reached out again for a Big Brother and was paired with Frisbie. “They matched me up with someone almost exactly like me, which makes it easier to talk to him,” says Castro.
The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado Inc., according to their website, is “to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.” They have mentoring programs that focus on education, sports or on general activities, which is the one Frisbie and Castro are part of. Volunteer mentors are asked to commit a minimum of one year to the relationship, spending time with the child two to four times per month. Staff members help support the relationships and provide some planned enrichment activities such as camping, bowling and field days for all of the Big Brother Big Sister pairs.
Castro credits his relationship with Frisbie for getting him involved in a variety of activities. “It actually gets me to do stuff,” says Castro. “Michael likes to play video games a lot so we try to do a little bit of that but also get him out, doing things outside like riding bikes, playing dodgeball, going to the park and watching movies,” says Frisbie. “We try to do stuff that isn’t expensive but is still fun and that we can do together,” he says, adding that the organization discourages doing expensive things with the kids. “They are always trying to find things that the kids can do on their own later and with their families.”
Frisbie and Castro’s mother communicate often about what’s going on in the teenager’s life. Frisbie knows it’s a big responsibility to be part of Castro’s life and plans to continue the relationship even after their formal mentoring program ends. “Sometimes it’s all play and we have a great time together and sometimes we talk about school or what’s going on in his family. We have an open dialogue,” Frisbie says. “I don’t think we’ve ever not been able to talk to each other.” Castro seconds that saying, “I can talk to him about just about anything.”
Although Castro’s energy level is sometimes too much for Frisbie who says his little brother is nonstop, he says, “I get to interact and see him grow. It’s pretty fun to watch.” Through the relationship, Frisbie has learned a lot. “He has taught me to slow down and really listen instead of just thinking I know something.” For his part, Castro says he has learned there are people in the world who have common interests with him. He has also learned how to be a better big brother to his younger sister and wants to one day be a Big Brother for the organization. He sums up his plans for his future Little Brother saying, “I’m going to take him out to have fun and he can always talk to me about his problems and school and stuff. And I’ll pretty much just stick up for him.”
Last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado Inc. had more than 1,870 one-to-one mentoring relationships. However, the organization says that 70 percent of their child inquiries are from boys but only 30 percent of the volunteer inquiries are from men. The organization says there is a particular need for mentors in the northeast neighborhoods including Stapleton and Park Hill. Learn more at www.biglittlecolorado.org/.