Fredericksburg Parent

April 2015

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30 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • April 2015 BY SUSAN LARSON G erald Fennemore returned to the Fredericksburg area to "retire" and teach mathematics at the University of Mary Washington. "I had some free time and I decided to give Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters (RBBBS) a try, since I thought their work could make a big differ- ence in shaping the lives of the peo- ple who needed guidance the most," he said. MATCHING UP In 2008 RBBBS matched Gerald with Little Brother Aaron Johnson, a 7-year- old still learning to ride a bike. "When I first met Aaron, I was impressed with how well behaved he was," Gerald said. "However, he was timid." Aaron was frightened of Gerald's dog, Joby. "I got Aaron to interact with dogs on our second day together, since he was afraid of them," Gerald said. "He quickly learned how to hold his body and interact with Joby so that they could have fun together without hurting each other. He learned to respect dogs and have empathy for other living creatures, while not allow- ing them to push him around." MENTORING & TRANSFORMATION This was the beginning of a trans- formation in Aaron. "Together Aaron and I faced his fears by playing with dogs, riding bikes around his commu- nity and doing other things that scare a 6-year-old," Gerald said. He quickly gained confidence and soon enjoyed his new capabilities." BBBS has exposed Aaron to a bigger world. "He met my friends from New Zealand, Korea, China, Ireland, Israel and many other places," Gerald said. "Aaron has developed strong social skills, a solid work ethic and athletic abilities, which in turn earned him a scholarship at Fredericksburg Christian Schools (FCS)." "With the help of a great mentor, and the newfound confi- dence their interactions have developed, Aaron has flourished in school and sports," said RBBBS executive director Michelle Hedrich. "Gerald has enjoyed watching Aaron grow from a small boy into a great student and successful middle school basketball player. Through Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the two have formed a lifelong bond, and Gerald sees himself being in Aaron's life long past their time together in the pro- gram." GET INVOLVED Gerald recommends volunteering as a Big. "If you don't have kids or no longer have young children, RBBBS gives you the chance to do fun "parenting" activities — going out to eat, practicing sports, watching kids' movies, going to local tourist attractions, etc. RBBBS also gives you the opportunity to see your community from a new perspective, and build bridges with a wide variety of people." Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children in need of an encouraging role model by providing one-to-one men- toring services that are proven to change their lives for the better. For more information about being a mentor, contact Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters at or 540-371-7444. Susan Larson publishes Fredericksburg Today, the locally owned, community powered online news and information website for computer, tablet and smart phone. She is also a writer and social media consultant with area businesses and nonprofits. Find her online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at Mentoring Relationships are Changing Lives Aaron and Gerald BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS

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