I Just Want to Help Out a Kid

Andover Firefighter is a Brand New Big Friend

“I have some time.  My wife and I do not have any children.  I just want to help out a kid,” shares Andover Firefighter Ian Timmons on a recent Tuesday afternoon…  And so here he is at Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Canal Street offices making good on his intention and being matched with Joel a bright-eyed 4th grader at Lawrence’s Arlington School.  On that particular afternoon, the two new pals were “matched” – the term used to signify their new status as Big Friend (Ian) and Little Friend (Joel).  The meeting, facilitated by a Family Services’ staff member, represents a first encounter for the two, and it’s a moment brimming with smiles for both the mentor and mentee.

Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Big Friends Little Friends is a youth mentoring program that matches caring adult mentors with young people who could benefit from a relationship with a positive adult role model. The goal of the program is to develop the positive potential of young people by providing them with support, guidance and friendship.  Serving fifteen towns in the Merrimack Valley, each year our Big Friends Little Friends program matches approximately 100 children with mentors.

Big Friends are caring and responsible people who:

  • Are from all different backgrounds, races and religions, and like to have fun.
  • Are committed to being a consistent role-model; to their continued mentor training; and to sharing, listening and visiting with their Little Friend.
  • Are able to relate positively and in a meaningful manner to a growing boy or girl.

Little Friends are boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 14 who:

  • Reside in our service area.
  • Have a desire to be in the program and want to have a Big Friend.
  • Have the approval and support of their parents or guardians to participate in the program.
  • Are from all different backgrounds, races and religions.

With a wait list of over 100 local children seeking a mentor through Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Big Friends, Little Friends program, Joel and his Mom have anticipated “match day” for some time.  Same goes for Ian… “Over the years, friends always ask me to be a godfather to their kids.  I’ve always wanted to do this.  Now, here we are.”  Over the course of their initial introduction the two naturally began to warm up to one another and quickly discovered they have much in common – football being one of their shared passions.  “When I grow up, I want to be a policeman,” announces Joel to everyone on hand for the meeting.  With his new Big Friend the nine-year old will likely get a great glimpse of the lives of those like Ian who serve the public and enforce the law.  Timmons, was honored in 2016 by the Lawrence Exchange Club as a Firefighter of the Year.

No small coincidence the two have much common ground as our Big Friends, Little Friends staff devote a good chunk of time in advance of these meetings to ensure that matches will succeed.  “Match meetings are a great experience for both the mentor, the mentee and the parent(s). It’s the first time they meet, and the feelings of excitement and nervousness are both present. It’s the moment they have been waiting for.  And, for mentees it’s the moment they’ve waited 2-3 years for,” commented Big Friends Little Friends Coordinator Katie Buttner.   “To meet the person that will become their mentor is such a fun and exciting environment to be in. I am so lucky to get to see the look of joy and happiness in their eyes as they meet.”

Best wishes to Ian and Joel as they embark on their brand new friendship.  Family Services is grateful to Ian for carving out some time, despite his long hours and demanding duties, to be that certain “sombeody” for a child.  A big THANK YOU to all of our volunteer Big Friends for the difference you make!

Our mentoring program service area includes children from: Amesbury, Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimac, Methuen, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, Rowley, Salisbury, and West Newbury.  Please consider helping us make our long wait list vanish this season by signing up to be a Big Friend today!  To learn more about the many wonderful children who hope to be paired with an adult mentor, please contact our Big Friends Little Friends program at 978-327-6600.  And, check out one of our other great matches… Omar and Boris.



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