More big buddies needed in city
Perrino volunteers to solve empty nest

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 27/99) - With his four children grown and out of the house, Dominic Perrino's home started to feel empty in 1998.

To help ease this feeling, Perrino contacted the Storefront for Volunteer Agencies and was connected with the Big Buddies organization.

"One of the reasons I got involved (as a big buddy) is because I have typically an empty nest and I kind of miss the fathering aspect of life," Perrino said.

"I'm a teacher and I didn't want to be dealing with youngsters always as students."

Perrino, who teaches science and math at Sir John Franklin high school, originally wanted to interact with a teenage student but because six-year-old Ben Schonberger had been waiting a long time, Perrino decided to take him on as a little buddy.

"I look forward to the fishing parts of our visits," said Schonberger, who is now eight years old.

"We get to go a lot -- all I've got to do is ask."

The Big Buddies organization matches children who, for different reasons, lack adult role models or companions.

"I very much need male volunteers," said organizer Marie Chenard.

"It's a role like an uncle or an aunt. You don't have to be very judgemental. In fact, you probably shouldn't be. You don't need to take that authority role."

Chenard said volunteers do not need to become part of the family, though many big buddies such as Perrino do.

"At the beginning I was seeing him mostly on Sundays and took him to the swimming pool or to play pool and sometimes McDonald's," Perrino said of Schonberger.

"During the summer I babysat for days at a time."

Chenard said no definite time commitment is required, though two to four hours per week is a usual minimum.

"We have nine matches now and our waiting list is of nine boys," she said.

"That doesn't sound like much but we only match about four kids a year so it's quite a waiting list right now."

To do the matching, Chenard said she looks for compatibility or how well the two are likely to get along.

Sometimes, she said, the volunteers have an age restriction where they prefer an older child or a younger child.

"I look down the list and see if there's a match. Then I phone the volunteer and ask 'hey, how does this kid sound,'" Chenard said.

"If they say 'yeah,' then we introduce them to each other."