On a cold Saturday morning, Eddie, 9, and Alex Stewart, 29, kick a soccer ball back and forth, on the leafy ground.
They’re not related but they are kind-of like brothers. They met each other through Big Brothers Big Sisters in Toronto, an organization that sets up children with mentors. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.
Shona, Eddie’s mother, contacted them because she wanted a male figure present in her son’s life. She said that the time Eddie has with Stewart is important for him. It’s something he can enjoy independent of her. A friend he can call his own.
Stewart says he was interested in mentoring after hearing about it through a friend.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” Stewart said. “Someone put me in contact with the organization and it just went from there.”
He adds that it’s his first experience with kids and it has been fun and easy to co-ordinate.
“It’s been interesting,” Stewart said. “All summer we played sports and exercised. It’s fun. It’s a good time.
Sandra Downey, director of business development and communications for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto says that the their vision as remained the same since 1913, when the movement started.
“Our vision is, every child who needs a mentor has a mentor,” Downey said.
Now, 100 years later, they have matched over 60,000 children with volunteer mentors. A recent study of the organization showed that the mentoring has an enormous benefit for the children’s futures.
“Because of the mentoring they got as a child…they feel they make better life choices because of it,” Downey said, referring to the study. “They’re more confident in themselves.”
As for Eddie, he has a strong opinion as to how spending time with Stewart benefits him.
“I like it when we go to places that my mom would never let me go,” Eddie said. “Like bowling or to the aquarium. We would rarely go there.”