A local mentorship program is helping to create meaningful friendships
Brent Porteous, a Fort Saskatchewan correctional officer, has been volunteering at the local BGC for the last three years.
Born in Ontario, Porteous used to volunteer in the Big Brother program. After moving to Fort Saskatchewan, he wanted to see if there were any local programs similar to what he had in Ontario.
He found out about the BGC and their mentorship program after purchasing a house in Fort Saskatchewan three years ago.
"I told them what I wanted to do, and they said I was in the right place," Porteous said.
After a background check and discussing interests, Porteous was paired up with Aiden, a second grader.
"At first I observed a quiet, introverted, lonely little boy. Honestly, my only hope with him was our shared interest in sports."
When they first started meeting at school for two hours every week, they would play board games and chat. Sometimes, Porteous would even help Aiden with his homework.
Once Aiden became more comfortable around Porteous, they started going to the school's gym to play hockey and basketball.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Brent originally saw this as a hindrance to his time with Aiden.
"[The school] had their own rules, so I contacted Aiden's mother and asked her if I could keep seeing Aiden on a one-on-one basis outside of school."
Seeing Aiden on a more personal basis only strengthened their bond.
"It was the best ever because Aiden started opening up to me, talking to me about his father who he'd never met, and stuff like that," Porteous said.
"Now we see each other for five or six hours every week. His mom's had me over and we've had dinner at my house, and there's such a big-time difference in Aiden now. He's so comfortable because we had the time to build trust with one another."
At this point, Porteous has been mentoring Aiden for over three years. Sadly, Porteous won't be around in person much longer, because he's moving to Victoria to become a police officer.
However, Porteous said he'll never stop keeping in touch with Aiden, and he even hopes that Aiden can fly out to see him someday.
"If not, I'll come down once I have my earliest vacation."
Overall, Porteous said that the mentorship program has been an amazing experience.
"I hope other people can give a bit of their time because it can go a long way. Hopefully, we can get some new mentors to start making a difference in some kid's life."
If you're interested in joining the mentorship program, you can get an application form at the BGC on 93 Avenue, across the street from the Fire Department.