Pistons Pass It On

Mentoring Night raises awareness for need
Ben Gordon doesn’t owe his natural athletic ability to Lowes Moore. But learning how to harness it and, more importantly, understanding that athletic ability is but one small component of a balanced and productive life might not have been possible without the aid of the man Gordon considers a mentor.

The Pistons hosted Mentoring Night at The Palace on Saturday, treating the 1,000 guests who took advantage of a special ticket offer to benefit Mentor Michigan with a thrilling comeback win over the Phoenix Suns. The group has a waiting list of more than 3,000 children looking to be paired with a mentor and $5 from each of the 1,000 tickets will be donated to Mentor Michigan.

Gordon benefited from having a mentor to look up to and he’s determined to continue to give back in the community for as long as he is able. His childhood mentor, Moore, was a former NBA player who later teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon, N.Y., Gordon’s hometown.

“At a young age I remember going there and him teaching me the game and teaching me what it was to be a good person and have character,” Gordon said. “He always had a positive impact on me.”

More mentors are needed in Michigan, especially males, with just 33 percent of adult mentors being men and boys constituting the majority of need.

“Across the state of Michigan, young people are benefitting from the efforts of local mentoring programs and their volunteers,” said Paula Kaiser VanDam, executive director of the Michigan Community Service Commission. “But there are still thousands more who could benefit from formal mentoring relationships. Mentoring night at The Palace will hopefully encourage spectators to pass it on and get involved with their local mentoring programs.”

Children with mentors are 46 percent less likely to start using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to start drinking alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.

Cherry Tolbert has experienced the benefits of having a mentor firsthand and has grown up to become an inspired and inspiring young woman.

“Seeing different opportunities that we actually have, especially as women, I didn’t see that in the beginning but now I do,” Tolbert said.

Cherry had the opportunity to introduce First Lady Michelle Obama, when she spoke at an event at Wayne State University, on behalf of Mentor Michigan to espouse the importance of mentorship. She said it was a moment she would cherish for the rest of her life.

“The most rewarding thing for me is to see just how much she’s grown,” said Angela Hines, Cherry’s mentor for the last 11 years. “She was a very quiet, shy child and I think she’s the opposite of that now. So just to be encouraging, to have her be more outgoing, to have her thinking about different things she wants to be in life.”

Becoming a mentor is a worthwhile experience for everyone involved. By taking a child under your wing you not only provide them a positive experience during the time you spend with them, you are establishing values and memories that will carry with them though their lifetime. If you are interested in becoming a mentor go to www.mentormichigan.org to get more information.