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North Carolina ‘Big Brother’ says taking teen under his wing changed both for the better


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    Maggie Valley, North Carolina (WLOS) — Quality time with a mentor grows even more valuable with time.

Dave Gildersleeve has been teenager Ryan Stuteville’s Big Brother for eight years.

“Me and my grandma used to play this all the time at Cracker Barrel,” Stuteville explained, making his move while playing a peg game with Gildersleeve.

“It’s more of a mental game, really. See how smart you are,” Stuteville explained.

“That’s why I didn’t win, haha,” Gildersleeve said with a laugh.

“To know that I could have some impact on his future means a lot to me,” said Gildersleeve, our News 13 Person of the Week.

He’s also been named “Big of the Year” for Western North Carolina and is being submitted for national “Big of the Year.”

Haywood County Program Coordinator Martha Barksdale said the honor is well deserved.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Haywood County needs volunteers to work with young people. The time required is minimal, but the long-term effects are potentially life-changing.

“Kids are our future. There are so many kids now facing adversity. Some kids don’t have someone to look up to,” Barksdale said.

When Dave took Ryan under his wing, both changed for the better. At 16 years old, Dave’s been Ryan’s “Big” for about half of the teenager’s life.

They’ve done everything from fishing to bowling together. Playing pool at Dave’s house is one of their favorite ways to bond.

Every outing has helped Ryan come out of his shell.

“Dave gave me something that I never really had. My mother and father got divorced when I was young, and I never really had a father figure around or someone to look up to like that. Dave pretty much filled that role for me for a long time,” he said.

“Ryan was shy, kind of introverted. I sensed not too confident,” Gildersleeve recalled. “And to watch him grow and mature over the years. Academically, to watch him go from making marginal grades to being in honor classes, it’s just been a neat maturation of watching him change and grow.”

“There are just so many things that are rewarding about being a Big Brother,” Gildersleeve continued. “Probably most important is knowing that you’re impacting a young man or a young woman in a positive way and hopefully guiding them in the right direction.”

Everything they do together is just a vehicle for conversations. Their activities provide simple moments between a “Big” and a “Little” that have a sizeable impact.

“Every young man or young woman ought to have a hero or mentor in life,” Gildersleeve said.

“It’s not really about the things we do. It’s about being together and having someone give you the time of the day, ask you how you’re week’s been,” Ryan explained.

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