Tony Tonkin decided he wanted to be a mentor in January of 2009 when the many struggles he encountered in his life, including a near death experience, inspired him to reach out and help a young man work through his own issues. Tony’s vast life experience and eagerness to give back, coupled with a broad range of hobbies from video production and photography to medicine and psychology, made Tony an ideal mentor. Recognizing his unique abilities, his case manager matched him with a 6th grade student struggling academically and socially. Since then, Tony has become a major source of support and encouragement for his mentee, helping him stay away from negative influences and remain positive about life, regardless of the challenges he faces. And he has faced many challenges.
Their relationship started well with trips to new places, going to see movies, playing soccer, working on homework, and even playing video games together. After a couple of months, however, his mentee began suffering from medical problems that affected every aspect of his life. This was a huge burden for his mentee’s family who needed to work to pay for his treatment and struggled with his transportation needs. Tony stuck by his mentee’s side and offered to support him and his family through this difficult time to make sure his mentee made it to his appointments and received all the help he could get. Tony even pulled together his friends to help the family get some essential household needs. He is always looking after his mentee’s health and well-being, and because of his amazing commitment the family has accepted him as one of their own, and is still so grateful for the strength he provides.
Now after almost three years Tony’s mentee has become an easy target to be picked on and influenced by peers because of everything is going through, and the developmental toll of his medical problems. To combat this risk Tony works every week with his mentee on improving his resilience by staying positive, keeping his grades up, exploring his interests and talents, and avoiding those who might want to hurt him. Tony takes him to the zoo, whale watching, museums, and makes sure he has opportunities to explore the world. It is clear that Tony is a major reason his mentee continues to do so well in spite of his challenges, and Tony is optimistic about the future.
Because of your amazing dedication, consistency, and willingness to go above and beyond for your mentee, you are our August Mentor of the Month! Thank you for everything you do, congratulations Tony!!