A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog that was very personal to me regarding my role in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters mentor program in Chicago. And more importantly, my relationship with my "little", Tre, and the immense feeling of fulfillment I have derived through mentorship.
The feedback was amazing.
I mean really really amazing.
I have been a Stoolie myself since before that word or term even existed, so I've always known how generous, caring, and empathetic this community truly is. As the Barstool Fund showed two years ago, there really is no other group of people anywhere, especially on the internet, more charitable and giving. That said, the outpouring of generosity and open-heartedness I received in response to this blog left me rattled. Not in a bad way. Not at all. I was overwhelmed by the amount of messages I received (emails, twitter DM's, texts from people who got my number from friends) as well as requests from people to put me in touch with people I never thought I'd speak to.
There were Notre Dame and Chicago Bear legends reaching out asking how they could help, there was a Fortune 500 CEO asking if he could help, there were hundreds, literally hundreds, of names I'd seen on twitter over the years and had interacted with here and there that messaged me their own personal stories, and asking if they could pitch in a few bucks to a GoFundMe or something.
I'm not too proud to admit I cried. A lot.
I cried hearing the stories from people about their childhood growing up, and the effects mentors and positive role models had in their lives. I cried hearing the stories about the effects that being a mentor to young kids in need had had not only on the kids, but more so on them through mentoring them and helping.
And I cried at just the overall generosity of all the people who took the time to read the blog, and then reach out asking how they could help.
I got to work with the Mount Carmel admissions and tuition office on putting together a link where people could contribute to Tremontae's tuition cost. The school came through with a VERY generous financial aid package for Tre's mom, but he's still going to be about 5-6K short per year.
I had several members of the school's athletic department reach out to ensure me that Tre is going to the right place and that he'll be in great hands.
I had several notable alumni from the school reach out and say the same.
I honestly couldn't be any happier with the situation, or happier that I pulled the trigger and wrote that blog.
I was on the fence for months about doing it, went back and forth with the Big Brothers corporate team to make sure I didn't cross any lines, and second-guessed myself about everything before finally submitting it to Coley and the Erics.
That led to the bombardment of messages and offers to help, but it also led to my buddy Eddie hitting me up asking if I'd be interested in seeing if Jeremy Foster, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Chicago would like to come on Dog Walk to discuss the program more in-depth.
I was shocked again.
Not by Eddie's generosity, he's one of the best human beings I know, but that we would be able to use a platform like Dogwalk, that he created from scratch and built into an amazing brand, to further get the word out.
Of course. That'd be amazing. So we reached out to Jeremy and made it happen earlier this week.
This result was an awesome conversation with Jeremy about just how impactful mentoring is, how dire the need is for "Bigs" to step up and help out, volunteering their time, and the various ways you can get involved.
You can take a direct one-on-one approach like I have with my "little", or you can participate in site-based mentorships which Eddie was doing, and is getting back to doing, where you're meeting up once or twice a month at a pre-scheduled event with other mentors and littles.
If you simply cannot make volunteering your time work, you can also always help out financially -
The program needs men of all ages and backgrounds to step up. (Especially men of color). It really doesn't take much. Just a few hours a month goes such a long way in these kids lives. And yours. Seeing the confidence grow in a kid who never had any, simply by having somebody in their life that believes in them, that they can talk to about stuff like sports, or tough classes, or girls, and the transformation they undergo having a positive role model in their life is incredible. Like I said in my original blog and in our interview, I genuinely think I have gotten more out of this program than Tre ever will. If you're feeling lost, of unfulfilled, or are just sad about seeing your city fall apart from the inside out and are looking for a way to become part of the solution, there is really no better way than to volunteer to be a mentor.
Here is the full interview -
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!