Just Doing What Friends Do

Tom Luckenbill has been a member of Columbia’s KidsFirst Optimist Club for 16 years, and throughout that time, the club has supported Big Brothers Big Sisters, a program that matches boys and girls with role model mentors.

“Every time they would come around and talk about their program and every time we would participate in their bowl-a-thon, I would think, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun and interesting to be in that program?’ ” Luckenbill says.

Finally, last year, he decided to join. His two daughters were no longer living at home, and “so it seemed to be a good time to have time to do this,” he says.

Luckenbill was matched with a 10-year-old boy, now 11, in the organization’s community-based program. Luckenbill picks his little brother up at home and finds activities to do with him out in the community a couple of times a month.

It’s been less challenging than Luckenbill expected.

I think they must’ve assigned one of the best kids in town to me,” Luckenbill says. “He’s a very pleasant young man and very well-spoken. We really get along very well.”

Luckenbill and his little brother have found that Sundays are usually the best time for them to get together. Most of their outings involve some sort of outdoor activity, such as Frisbee golf, tennis or yard work.

“One Sunday, I picked him up at his home, and we drove over to Rocheport and went for a bike ride on the Katy Trail, and then we got something to eat and just hung out for a while,” Luckenbill says. “Mostly it’s just doing what friends do, just talking to one another and sharing with each other what’s on our mind.”

As is often the case with “littles,” Luckenbill’s little brother does not have a father in the home. Luckenbill texts with his little brother’s mom to arrange outings and receives positive feedback from her.

“[She] tells me her son enjoys hanging out with me,” Luckenbill says.

At home, Luckenbill’s little brother tends to spend his time on video games and similar pastimes. Although Luckenbill knows it’s good for children to be exposed to active outdoor recreation, he says those benefits aren’t really the point.

“Truly, my objective is to demonstrate a decent role model,” Luckenbill says. “It’s not really about the activities so much. The program is more about being associated with someone who can be a positive influence.”

Having been in the program several months now, Luckenbill encourages others to volunteer. He notes that Big Brothers Big Sisters has a list of youth waiting for a match.

“And I think more people should get involved as a Big Brother or Big Sister,” he says. “I mean, I think I am having some positive impact on this young man, and I feel good about investing my time trying to help somebody.”