Saratoga County

Saratoga Mentoring seeks men to match with boys

Keith Ganzenmuller wants to convince other guys to go bowling, hang out at the park or throw a ball
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Keith Ganzenmuller wants to convince other guys to go bowling, hang out at the park or throw a ball back and forth.

That’s all it takes to be a mentor to a boy, Saratoga Mentoring wants men to know.

The organization that is run by Catholic Charities and serves children throughout Saratoga County is holding an event Jan. 27 to introduce more men to mentoring.

“It takes a special way to recruit men,” said Stephanie Wolos, program director. “It’s a struggle for every single mentoring program in the world.”

Women make up most of the volunteers here and elsewhere and respond better to advertisements asking for someone to make a difference in a child’s life, Wolos said.

The organization received a $10,000 grant last summer from First Niagara Bank after pitching its idea for “Sports Buddies,” a program to draw men in for the short term with fun activities.

“We’ve learned that men respond better if we say, ‘This is easy. This is fun,’ ” Wolos said.

They’ve done two programs so far — one mini-golf session in October and a Siena College basketball game in November.

“After that, two people immediately signed up,” Wolos said.

They hope to enlist some more mentors this time.

About 10 to 15 people usually attend the activities.

Ganzenmuller plays a big part in that as an established mentor who can explain what’s involved.

“When the idea of being a mentor or being a big brother comes up, it’s like this huge commitment,” he said. “Once you do it, it’s not that much of a huge, time-consuming commitment.”

Mentors do fun activities with the children, he said.

“You go bowling every couple of weeks or grab a bite to eat, or do something like mini-golf,” Ganzenmuller said.

Ganzenmuller, 27, an assistant golf pro who lives in Saratoga Springs, has been matched with an 11-year-old boy for more than a year.

Mentors through Saratoga Mentoring meet with their child a few times a month.

Children range from 6 to 14 years old.

“Most of the boys don’t have a dad in their life. And they’re all well-behaved kids,” Wolos said.

They benefit from having a mentor, she said.

“Even their attendance improves just because they have a mentor. It tends to have a ripple effect throughout the child’s entire life. Some of the research shows that kids develop a better sense of the future,” Wolos said.

Mentors also have a chance to discuss with experienced mentors and supervisors challenges and other matters that occur during their mentoring sessions at a coffee hour every other month.

Saratoga Mentoring is in a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the organizations keep just one list of area children who need mentors.

Big guy opportunities

Men are invited to an hour of bowling at 2 p.m. Jan. 27 at Hi-Roc Lanes in Saratoga Springs.

Children who are on the waiting list for mentors and experienced mentors will be there. To register, call Saratoga Mentoring at 581-1487 or e-mail [email protected]

For more information, visit www.saratogamentoring.org.

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