The Buddy Program: One big, happy family | AspenTimes.com

The Buddy Program: One big, happy family

Lindsay Hoffmann
Buddy Program Coordinator

Within The Buddy Program there are several sets of sisters, brothers, cousins, husbands and wives who are all involved in some capacity.

However, none may be as close as the Carrillo family is with their Big Buddies: Carolyn Fields and Laura Curry.

The Carillos first became acquainted with The Buddy Program when Yeira’s teacher referred her to the program. Yeira was in fourth grade and missed her 15-year-old sister, who was living in Mexico at the time.

Suddenly Yeira became the oldest child in her family and she missed having the companionship of a big sister. In October 2002 she was matched with Carolyn Fields, a kindergarten teacher at Aspen Elementary School.

Carolyn was inspired to spend time with a young person because her own children were in college. Her teaching experience and passion for youth made her a perfect Big Buddy and mentor for Yeira.

It wasn’t long before Yeira’s sister, Sarah, was referred to the program. The girls’ mother, Leonor, referred Sarah, and, a month later she was paired with Laura Curry. Laura is a golf instructor in the summer and a ski instructor in the winter. Sarah and Laura were an instant match – but it gets better.

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Before Sarah had a Big Buddy, Carolyn would occasionally include her and the girls’ younger brother, Giovanni, in the outings with Yeira. As Carolyn remarked, “The (Carrillo) siblings look after each other. They don’t like leaving each other out.”

When Laura and Sarah were paired, the foursome began enjoying activities together, and little brother Giovanni was still included. Laura and Carolyn, who previously had not known each other, became friends, as they had the common goal of serving as role models and mentors for the sisters.

The Carrillo children attend Basalt schools, where Carolyn’s daughter, Nan Fields, teaches sixth grade. Soon, the kids started visiting with Nan after school. They looked to her as a role model and friend as well. Although Nan is not officially connected with The Buddy Program, she enjoys the visits and the new friendships she has made with all three children.

When asked what she has learned from her little buddy, Carolyn said that she has especially enjoyed learning about a different culture. She and Laura have spent time with the entire family, at the Carrillo’s house, enjoying good food and company.

Laura stressed the importance of being consistent with the children and being there as planned so as not to let them down. Both of the Big Buddies agree that the laughter and fun, as well as the sincere, warm greetings they receive from the entire Carillo family are why they love being volunteers with the program.

The learning has not just been one way. According to their mom, the girls have learned to be more patient and social in their daily interactions.

“They have learned a lot from their Buddies. They understand more in school and in the culture because of their Buddies. I am very happy with The Buddy Program,” Leonor said.

[If you would like to make a difference in a child’s life, or know a child who is in need of a mentor, call Cathy at 925-5717, or Sole or Lindsay at 927-1001]

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