New Footsteps to Follow

Tyler is put on a positive path

As Tyler and his mother sat in the Big Brothers Big Sisters offices excitedly waiting for his new Big Brother to arrive, a tall, good-looking, athletic man in his mid-twenties walked into the room. “I think that’s Freddie,” Pam whispered to her son. “I think you’re going to like him.” Tyler nodded yes, and a smile spread across his face.

Pam recalls a very different situation just a few years earlier. Due to substance abuse issues, the father of her two boys became physically abusive. After 13 years of marriage, they divorced and he moved out of state, abandoning his family—Tyler was 7 years old. “His dad did not model good behavior, which was huge in Tyler’s life,” Pam reflects. “There were many years after his dad left that Tyler had severe behavioral issues. It’s been a huge process to recover—to get to a point where he’s maturing and making better decisions.”

Tyler was having trouble focusing on his schoolwork so he began attending Resource learning classes in sixth grade. One day he got in a fight after school. Tyler was suspended and forced to complete the final two months of school at home. “It was not a good situation. He can be very impulsive at times and made some bad choices,” Pam says.

“Tyler was old enough to see his dad go down,” she continues. “I didn’t want my children to have that as their lifestyle.” Tyler and his brother see their dad about once every two years, and Pam says that there is a sense of “if my dad really cared about me he would chose to be in my life.”

In August 2009, Freddie walked into Tyler’s life.

Pam remembers Freddie being warm and friendly right from his first “hello.” Freddie and Tyler have many common interests, so deciding on outings came easily. They’ve gone bowling, played volleyball and ice hockey, and most recently tried paint-balling together. Their Big Brothers Big Sisters match support specialist has kept them apprised of upcoming events and special activities. They’ve even attended a day-camp with the Arizona Cardinals national football team.

“Freddie has a lot of energy, and that keeps Tyler busy and gives him confidence,” Pam says. “His life is less serious now—he definitely laughs a lot more.”

His fun-loving, confident, successful Big Brother sets an example of what can result from drive and determination. Earning his driver’s permit has been top-of-mind for Tyler this year. Freddie helps Tyler stay focused on the goal by talking about someday owning his own car. He also gets Tyler thinking about his path following high school, whether it be college or trade school.

Pam says, “It’s important for Tyler to see a guy that has accomplished things. Freddie is a young guy with a college degree, a good job, a home, a puppy and a girlfriend—all things that appeal to Tyler. He wants that life someday. Now he talks about the future so much more than he ever has, and that’s because of Freddie’s influence.”

Freddie’s easy-going disposition and innate calmness have also rubbed off on Tyler. Due to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tyler gets upset more quickly than other children and has trouble focusing, but Pam has noticed a distinct change in his self-control. Tyler now weighs the consequence of his actions.

Tyler more specifically says: “Freddie has helped me with my brother Trevor. Now I relax and ignore him when he’s bothering me instead of getting upset and angry.”

His mom continues: “When you have a parent—your own dad—with substance abuse issues, it’s hard for a kid. Having Big Brothers Big Sisters in his life has shown Tyler that people have a choice to be a part of someone’s life. He knows that his father is making the choice to stay away—and that’s very hard for Tyler. But, his Big Brother keeps coming back, and wants to spend time with him. He enjoys that consistency of having someone involved with his life. And you can see how happy Freddie is when he picks up Tyler.”

Pam removed her boys from a negative situation, but she also knew Tyler and his younger brother Trevor needed a positive male role model.

“I can support them, but I’m not a man,” she explains. Having Freddie as the male influence in a young boy’s life makes me feel good. It shows Tyler that he can be different than his dad was.”

Tyler explains: “It’s important to have another guy to hang out with that’s a better influence and role model. He helps me stay out of trouble—keeps me busy so I don’t get bored and do something negative.”

“Big Brothers Big Sisters accepts your child for who they are, not how they are expected to act. It eliminates the fear of acting differently from everyone else. The focus is on my son and Freddie having a great time together. It’s important for Tyler to see that some people chose to stick around.”

“I want to raise boys that will be responsible and good members of their community. It was overwhelming to think about doing that on my own. Having Big Brothers Big Sisters as a resource has been the biggest blessing.”

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