Big buddy shares bond

SHELLEY GRECO
Last updated 05:00 17/04/2014
Big Buddy
FIRM FRIENDS: Kerry Rowlands, left, enjoys the time he spends with Elijah Schwenke.

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Kerry Rowlands understands how it feels to grow up without a father.

He lost his dad when he was just 13.

That may be the biggest bond he shares with his little buddy, Elijah Schwenke, 11.

Rowlands is a mentor with Big Buddy and met Elijah in August 2012 after taking part in a similar programme in London.

"When I got back I saw it in the Western Leader and thought about it for some time," the Te Atatu man says.

Big Buddy is a mentoring service that recruits male volunteers from the community to become mentors to fatherless boys.

Every weekend, Rowlands picks up Elijah from his Grey Lynn home and they spend two to three hours together.

The duo go fishing, mountain biking and to the movies.

They have also been to Big Boys Toys and Armageddon.

Both are interested in marine conservation and sport and are training for the Run Auckland series.

"We are just mates really," Rowlands says. "One of the things I do like about Big Buddy is there's no agenda."

"I think of Kerry as a brother," Elijah says.

"I look forward to being active and doing exercise."

Rowlands married his long-term partner Kathy Ebbett in February, and in lieu of wedding presents, the couple requested that guests make a donation to Big Buddy, which totalled $800.

"It's just something that I believe strongly in," Rowlands says.

"We don't need any trinkets for the house, we are fairly set up.

"They don't get a lot of government funding."

The couple have an eight-month-old baby and another on the way, due in August.

"I never expected my relationship with Elijah would change when we had our daughter," Rowlands says.

"We're both used to big families and everyone just expanding to include whoever comes along.

"And fortunately our daughter was very settled, I just hope that happens this time round."

Big Buddy is looking for new mentors and Rowlands whole-heartedly recommends taking part.

"I'd have no hesitation in telling others to get involved," he says.

"You're doing it as much for yourself."

See bigbuddy.org.nz for more information.

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- Western Leader

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