As Director of Communications for the PGA TOUR, Joel Schuchmann’s most rewarding hour of his week is his visit with his Little Brother, Timmy, a fourth-grader at Neptune Beach Elementary School.
Joel and Timmy participate in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida’s program and have been together for nearly two years.
For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country including Northeast Florida.
Timmy lives with his mother and rarely sees his father. He struggles with ADD/ADHD, participates in the school lunch program and is frequently in trouble at school. Nonetheless, his friendship with Joel has made a significant difference in his life. The two spend much of their time during visits focusing on reading comprehension and homework, this year reading from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. During a recent visit, Timmy read a personal-record 28 pages with frequent stops to discuss the book and what various words meant.
“The staff at Neptune Beach Elementary School does a great job working with these kids on both the educational side and the personal growth side,” said Joel. “I’m just there to reinforce all the values they work so hard to instill.”
Joel encourages and supports Timmy as he works through his behavioral issues.
“I’m not there to scold him, I’m there to be his friend,” said Joel. “At the same time, minor behavioral issues for a 10-year-old can become major over time, and that is something we work on each week. Big Brothers Big Sisters has been instrumental in helping many kids maximize their potential and that’s why I love the program.”
Of course, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program also involves fun. On nice days, Joel and Timmy spend their recreational time playing basketball.
“Too many jammed fingers playing football and too many divots on the soccer field hitting golf balls,” said Joel, laughing. “It was great to expose him to something new like golf, he really enjoyed the challenge. Hopefully he’ll pick it up again someday, this time with a much better swing coach.”
“We have a weekly ‘around the world’ basketball game and I think I’ve won only one time,” said Joel. “We’ve graduated this year to a higher rim, and he has continued to progress each time we play. To see his face after making a clutch shot to win is priceless.”
Sometimes the two just sit and talk.
“Timmy and I come from different backgrounds, and obviously we have an age difference, but we have a lot to talk about,” said Joel. “He’s just starting out in the world, and I’m envious of the fact that he has the opportunity to become whatever he wants to. He’s one of the smartest kids I’ve met and I hope the Big Brothers Big Sisters program can help him reach his dreams.”
There is a currently a significant need for mentors in Northeast Florida, and there are a number of programs and ways to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida. For more information, visit www.bbbsnefl.org or call 904-727-9797.
“I can’t think of a more rewarding volunteer experience than Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Joel. “To play a small role in Timmy’s development helps me get through a tough week. For that one hour, I’m just a friend.”