Giving Thanks: Robin Ahgupuk and Alec Kay
Whether it's grabbing a bite to eat at Arctic Roadrunner or just catching up, Alec Kay and Robin Ahgupuk say they have much to be thankful for this year.
Ahgupuk said after spending 15 years in and out of foster care homes from Fairbanks, Texas, New York and parts of California, learning to trust others hasn't come easy.
"When I was in foster care, I had people that said they were gonna be there for me, but days or even hours later they are out of my life," Ahgupuk said.
Three years ago, Ahgupuk got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters' Sync program and met Kay, a volunteer mentor to help him navigate through the challenges of becoming an adult and transition out of foster care.
"Just thankful for having a friendship and just someone I can count on and believe in," Ahgupuk said.
Kay said it's been a rewarding experience being part of Ahgupuk's life.
"I don't have a lot of skills in life, but I thought I could probably do that, just being a friend and being around to help him through just some practical stuff," Kay said.
The Sync program is currently serving 25 big and little matches from Anchorage, but is also available in the Mat-Su Valley.
Sharon Pruszko, program coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters said the group would like to help more.
"Typically it's like a 6 month to a year waiting for little brothers that are coming into our program, sometimes it's even longer 'til we can find a male big brother for them," Pruszko said.
Unlike other BBBS programs, the Sync Program is for 14 to 21 year old youth in foster care or transitioning out, allowing "bigs and littles" to meet in different places in their communities outside of school.
Volunteers go through an orientation and interview with Pruszko before being matched.
Pruszko said once they're matched, the key is for mentors to simply follow through for their littles.
"I hear that time and time again from my mentors 'I'm not doing anything' or 'I just show up,' but it's very impactful the fact that you call youth up just letting them know 'I'm here for you.'"
While the group needs more Big Brothers, for those matches lucky enough to have each other over the holidays, it's a time to give thanks for friendships, some that will last for years to come.
"I'm extremely thankful for that whole situation that came about to help these kids transition and be able to contribute to one life is a really nice feeling," Kay said.
Ahgupuk and Kay were matched nearly 3 years ago.
While Ahgupuk is now 22 years old, he plans to stay in touch with Kay.