Steamboat Springs Chance Dickerson has a simple reason for why his relationship with his Partners in Routt County mentor Cody Pryke is one of the strongest relationships in his life.
"We are like the same person, just he is a lot older," said Chance, 11, who was paired with the 28-year-old Pryke two years ago through the Partners program, which connects youths with adults in one-to-one mentorships.
Chance and Pryke's pairing is one of the longest running relationships in the Partners program, and it has endured despite an auspicious beginning.
"The first day we actually had a day together, we went out to my friend's ranch who breaks horses - he's got a big, round pen and an arena - we got him up on a horse and he was going around the gate and Chance's foot got caught on the gate," said Pryke, who accidentally nudged the horse in the ribs, sending it off on a gallop with Chance clutching the saddle horn.
"The horse saw a creek and stopped - and Chance had a hold of the reins. He swung out off the horse and rolled on the ground," he said. "As the horse came round, (it) stepped on the top of his foot."
"It knocked my shoe off, gave me a bruise, but it was pretty awesome," Chance recalled.
"I can't believe that was the first day we ever hung out," said Pryke, a former rodeo rider. "I'm surprised he let me back, but I see a lot of him in me. There are things that he does and I'm like, 'I was so that guy when I was your age.'"
Libby Foster, executive director of the Partners program, said she knew from the start that Pryke and Chance's pairing would last.
"I had Chance in mind from the moment I met Cody," she said. "You just see so much of one in the other."
With more than 20 children waiting for partners, Foster is embarking on a recruitment and fundraising drive this month - National Mentoring Month - with the goal of creating additional meaningful relationships, such as that between Chance and Pryke.
"We are working to serve more kids in more ways without compromising the quality of our mentoring programs," said Foster, who hopes to increase the number of partnerships to about 45.
Those who are interested in learning more about Partners are invited to the nonprofit organization's annual celebration at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill.
Foster said the event may help answer the questions of potential mentors, including what Foster said is the biggest hurdle - persuading potential mentors to give up three hours a week of their life for a minimum of one year.
Pryke, who works two jobs and coaches youth league hockey, said despite his busy schedule, he always finds time for Chance.
"If you can give up one day a week for a few hours, it makes a huge difference," he said. "There will be a week where I'll miss a week because I'm on vacation, and you can tell he is not stoked about it. He is always looking forward to that time of week."
Foster said mentors should be sure they can give enough time because many of the kids have experienced some kind of loss.
"We are trying to minimize that and provide some stability in their lives and someone they can count on and depend on," she said.
A sense of loss is something Chance is all too familiar with. He's never had a relationship with his father, nor is he close to his 19-year-old brother. Before his pairing with Pryke, Chance had a three-year partnership with another senior mentor.
Pryke said the partnership has endured some rough patches, but like he would with any meaningful relationship, he wanted to work through it.
"There was a time when we first started hanging out that he was going through a bunch of stuff at school that was a little heavy, but I stuck through it," he said. "I think that has helped out a lot that I stuck around. : I've seen him grow up a little bit and change for sure."
As Pryke and Chance played a SpongeBob-themed game of Monopoly on Friday while debating between watching a movie or going to a rail jam at Howelsen Hill, Pryke said his mentorship with Chance is a responsibility he doesn't take lightly.
"I had a lot of mentors growing up, and it helped me out to have somebody around that wasn't a parent that can help me do things," he said. "I try to teach things that sometimes doesn't work for parents. So another influence is always good."
A 1998 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, Pryke returned to Steamboat about three years ago.
"When my friends see us together, they are like, 'Why are you hanging out with that kid.What's that all about?'" he said. "They think he is my little brother, or I'm babysitting. I tell them I'm part of Partners and everybody is interested. I encourage everybody to try it. It is fun."
For more information about Partners in Routt County, call Foster at 879-6141.
- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org