In one year, 10-year-old Robert Stalkingcat has overcome his fear of water, heights and riding a bike. He’s even in a play.
“I was really scared at first, but now I’m like, ‘I can do this,’ ” he said.
“His confidence is 360 degrees from last year,” said Robert’s mother, Lorri Crable, noting that her son is now mentoring a kindergartner and won a citizenship award at Newman Elementary.
What’s behind such a turnaround in Robert’s behavior?
“Just having a male role model around,” Lorri said. “Brian has been a godsend getting him through those fears. He’s gotten to the point where he’s getting through those fears on his own.”
Brian is Brian Hollis, Robert’s big brother through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yellowstone County program. The program has matched 65 adults with children in the county and also partners 270 grade school students with teens through its school-based program.
Brian and Robert were matched in March last year. They’ve gone fishing and floating on the Yellowstone River, baked cookies and played the board game Sorry. The get-togethers, often peppered by Brian quizzing Robert with math problems, have gradually brought Robert out of his timid shell.
“The milestone I saw was the float trip with Trout Unlimited,” Brian said. “He got in a drift boat and caught his first fish. And then he realized that a lot of things he feared — he could have fun if he conquered his fears.”
Lorri said there’s no doubt the change is due to Brian.
“I know it’s a direct result of having someone he can talk with and be with,” she said. “I’m great, I’m mom, but I can only go so far.”
Brian, 33, said he joined the program last March after being encouraged by friends.
“I’ve always loved kids,” he said, often baby-sitting for his mother’s friends and even working in a daycare. “I’m a family man without a wife, yet.”
Even though his job as a civil engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation often takes him out of town for days or weeks, Brian still makes time to hang out with Robert as often as possible, sometimes the night before he has to leave on a trip.
Robert is not the only one who has benefited from the brotherhood.
“Honestly, it’s kind of a stress reliever,” Brian said. “It’s a really good way to forget about work. I’m just picking up a friend and going for a ride or a walk.”