Luis Ching of Fresno recently had a very special and young groomsman in his wedding: Jarrett Pellanda.
They were strangers until just three years ago, when Ching entered the boy’s life through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California. The organization matches children with volunteer adult mentors, who serve as positive role models.
Jarrett said he felt happy at Luis and Ashley Ching’s wedding in Fresno two months ago.
“It’s just sort of like a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” says Jarrett, who describes his mentor as a “nice young man.”
He teaches me lessons about life.
Jarrett Pellanda about his Big Brother, Luis Ching
“He teaches me lessons about life.”
Ching got the idea to ask Jarrett to be a groomsman from his wife, who was mentored as a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters and was a bridesmaid at her “big sister’s” wedding.
“I wanted Jarrett to feel like how happy I was,” Ashley Ching says.
It really changed my life and meant a lot.
Ashley Ching on her experience in Big Brothers Big Sisters
Luis Ching works as a pharmacist and also volunteers in children’s ministry. He got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters because he had extra time and wanted to make a difference.
Jarrett’s mother enrolled him in the program when he was 6 years old because she wanted him to have a positive male figure in his life. Jarrett has two older sisters, but no brothers.
Ching says he hopes he’s teaching Jarrett how to have conviction and do the right thing so he can “be a better person for God.” He weaves teaching moments into hangouts that last several hours every other weekend, where they do things like play Legos and video games, and work on homework.
Ching also is instilling in Jarrett the value of saving money. Jarrett has stowed away $100 so far, which he plans to put toward new toys.
Ching has learned some things, too: Lessons in consistency, patience, open-mindedness, and a “preview” to what he expects being a dad someday will feel like.
If you know how to be a friend and give a little bit of your time, you can make a difference.
Diane Phakonekham of Big Brothers Big Sisters
Diane Phakonekham, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California, hopes more children will be able to experience a friendship like Jarrett’s and Ching’s. She says the organization needs more volunteers to make that possible.
“It’s very heartbreaking … we have kids on the waiting list, and sometimes they wait quite a while, especially for male volunteers, because the need is so great,” she says.
Jarrett hopes more adults will step up, too.
“You can have old friends that are really good and I just think it’s a great program,” Jarrett says. “It brings people together.”
January is National Mentoring Month. More information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California – including requirements to enroll a child, and how to become a mentor – is available online at bigs.org.