Benefits Of Big Brothers Big Sisters Program

Bill Newton and David Luna have become good friends. Three years ago they were matched up by the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Tyler. "David has always been more than I could ask. He's got it all together. It's just been a joy for me to be with him," says Bill. David adds, "It's been a great experience 'cause I've done a bunch of things I don't think I would have done without him and we get to meet knew people and go to places together."

Some of those "places" include bowling, sporting events and amusement parks. They're learning a lot from each other. Bill explains with a chuckle, "David had me on some rides at Six Flags that I thought I was beyond." David is quick to add, "I gave him some advice, to close his eyes so he wouldn't be scared."

Bill also uses his time with David to teach. "We do things like passing out food once a month for PATH, to going to the Recycle Plant, to visiting the new Tyler airport to working out at KH Fitness," says Bill.

Like many of the children in Big Brothers Big Sisters, David comes from a single parent home. Since his Dad isn't around, Bill helps fill a void in his life. "He's been a great role model for me and he's helped me out with a lot of stuff like my homework sometimes. He's always proud for me whenever I do stuff," says David.

Bill decided to give of his time after retiring and says it's been worth every moment. He says, "Call it a reward I guess. I just wanted to make a difference and I hope I have." At least with this 11 year old, Bill has made a difference and David says there are other children who could also benefit. "They might not have many friends, or they might be alone most of the time, and a big brother or big sister would be a great help for them," David says.

Bill and David see each other once a week, but their friendship will last a lifetime. This sixth grader says, "I've gotten new memories with him and some great thoughts that I'll always have with him."

Currently, there are 43 Big Brother Big Sister matches with area children, but there are about two dozen other children on a waiting list. There are also about 150 children in At-Risk Mentoring Program in Tyler schools. If you are interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, contact the Mental Health Association in Tyler at 903-592-0582.

   Gillian Sheridan, reporting.