In effort to raise money and awareness, Mentoring Tucson’s Kids will host its annual fundraising breakfast on May 16 at the Oro Valley Country Club.

Mentoring Tucson’s Kids offers two nonprofit programs that help mentor youth who face life’s challenges. The one-on-one mentoring program, started by Executive Director Don McNeill, is a community-based program. It was started in 1995, serves youth ages 6-18 and is similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters. The mentoring kids program, which was started in 2007, is a faith-based program that serves youth ages 5-18.  

For both programs, mentors can be high school aged or older. If a mentor is below the age of 18 they are required to have a parent with them. The one-on-one and mentoring kids programs are yearlong programs. Mentors meet with their youth every week and attend monthly events. Because the mentoring kid’s program is faith-based, parents must sign a form that allows mentors to share their faith, take their child to Bible study, church and more.

College and professional athletes have taken part in helping out as mentors. Quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Foles, took part in the program when he was a football player at the University of Arizona. McNeill first met Foles at a football Bible study. Foles, who was among a few others to sign up, ended up mentoring four brothers. Every Sunday Foles would pick up them up and take them to church. When he had to play in a home football game, Foles parents would volunteer to take the boys out for dinner and then to the game.

“I didn’t know this was going on,” said McNeill, who added that Foles also donated $1,000 to the boys after hearing that they had bed bugs that destroyed most of their furniture and beds. “It was pretty mind blowing and every one was blessed that he would do that.”

Though Foles generosity is not normally what the mentoring program does, it is an act of generosity that positively impacted people. Another U of A alumni and athlete, Brigetta Barrett has also taken part in Mentoring Tucson’s Kids.

About 30,000 youth in Tucson are in need of mentoring. These are youth who have one parent, are in group or foster homes, live with grandparents or are homeless. Of those 30,000 only 1,500 youth were mentored last year from Mentoring Tucson’s Kids and other active mentoring programs in the area. Mentoring Tucson’s Kids have about 100 youth come through their program every year.

In order to get the Tucson community involved in helping youth, McNeill started Southern Arizona Mentors Coalition six years ago. Mentoring programs throughout most of Tucson meet every month to discuss ideas and yearly put on a picnic and football game for the youth.

The upcoming fundraising event will be held at the Oro Valley Country Club on May 16, from 7 to 8 a.m.  For information contact McNeill at 624-4765 ext. 2.

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