When Little Brother Darryl met his Big Brother Vince Galati for the first time, the then 7-year-old said the tall and imposing figure was a little scary. But as the pair started playing a get to know each other game, the insightful Little Brother shared, “I found out he’s really a big softy.” As Darryl glanced at his Big Brother, he quickly added, “I couldn’t have gotten a better match.”
It was Galati’s “soft” nature that inspired him to become a volunteer mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri (BBBSEMO), a little more than six years ago. “I was in church and a presentation was made about the Amachi program that really touched me and pulled on my heart,” the caring Big Brother reflected. “So I followed up on it and applied.”
Amachi Missouri is a BBBSEMO initiative that was created to serve at-risk children of current and former prisoners, who research suggests are at a higher risk of entering the corrections system themselves. Through Amachi Missouri, BBBSEMO partners with four Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates throughout the state, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Corrections, to match children of incarcerated parents with volunteer mentors.
Darryl’s mother is incarcerated and his father is deceased. Darryl and his sister live with their grandmother, Janeen. Both children were enrolled in Amachi Missouri by their mother and Janeen is grateful for the support and encouragement that the program provides. “It is really nice to know that Vince is there,” Janeen said, adding, “Darryl has a positive male role model in his life and someone he can look up to.” Kids are sponges, soaking up what they see and experience, the thoughtful caretaker continued. Janeen hopes that by being around Vince, who is successful both professionally and personally, Darryl will learn the value of hard work and healthy relationships. “And the guy is just so fun,” she added.
The fun component of the friends’ relationship is evident as they laugh and recount some of the activities they have enjoyed over the years. Bottom line is they enjoy each other’s company and make an effort to get together at least two to three times a month. “He’s like another family member. He’s my best friend,” the proud Little Brother asserted. Galati’s view of his Little Brother is equally as affirming. “When I look at the challenges he has been through, I’m almost shocked at how he’s on his feet. He is a role model of what a kid can be – he’s generous, intelligent and just very resilient.”
Research shows the support and encouragement provided by a Big has the power to help children enjoy healthy relationships, stay in school, avoid substance abuse and have the self-confidence to make good decisions.
"Being around Vince has definitely made me want to grow up and be a good man," Darryl shared, concluding, "I have a lot of lofty goals for my life and Vince has taught me that they are attainable."
There are roughly 1,000 children waiting for a Big Brother or a Big Sister and more than 50 percent of that number are boys. For more information on how to become involved, contact Vivian Gibson at 314-361-5900 or visit the website at www.bbbsemo.org.