Josh Santana, 8, takes his turn during a game of Yahtzee with Andrew Holt during Friends Game Day on Saturday.
To learn more about Friends, call 527-4745 or go online to wallawallafriends.org.
WALLA WALLA — You might say the game of life brought Andrew Holt and Josh Santana together.
On Saturday it was a game of Yahtzee that kept the two occupied as they took part in the Friends of Walla Walla Game Day at the Carnegie Center.
Holt is a volunteer mentor for Friends who, 30 months ago, got paired up with Josh, who was then 6.
“He was very reserved. He was always a pleasure but he was reserved,” Holt said, describing what was a painfully shy boy.
Every week Holt dutifully spent at least two hours with Josh as part of his commitment to the Friends program.
The organization currently pairs up about 30 adult mentors with children who often lack either a male or female adult role model in their lives.
The goal, according to Program Director Jovanna Centre, is to help build confidence, support good decision making, improve grades, promote positive behavior and avoid delinquency in the children.
The greatest need Friends has is for male mentors of boys of single moms.
“Though we are starting to see a lot more grandparents, and we are starting to see a lot more single dads,” Centre said.
The current waiting list for a female mentor is about six months, while the wait for a male mentor is a year, Centre said.
Mentors are asked to commit about two hours every week doing fun activities with their paired child.
The commitment lasts for a year.
After the year is up, the mentor relationship is reviewed and the boy or girl is asked if he or she would like to continue the relationship. The adult mentor is also given the opportunity to continue the weekly meetings.
Holt said he expects his relationship with Josh to continue as long as he lives in the area.
“He is just a delight to be with. It is sort of the cliche. But I get just as much joy out of it as he does,” Holt said.
Then Holt noted how Josh was doing something he would have never done when they first met, as he watched Josh, 8, interact with one of the AmeriCorps volunteers.
“He’s a lot more confident at trying new things and he is much more quick to open up ... Him letting her interact with him like that. He probably would have came right over to me,” Holt said.
Every visit isn’t perfect for Holt.
“You have ups and downs. You have visits that aren’t the greatest visits in the world. But the important thing is you had the visit,” he said.
It was about four months into the regular visits that Holt said he started to see a change, as Josh opened up and was more willing to share what he wanted to do for the day, rather than go along with what Holt had planned.
“Now the minute we get in the car he starts talking,” Holt said.
Like any 8-year-old, Josh barrages his male role model with questions.
“How tall can a building be? How tall can a car be? What would happen if the dinosaurs came back?”
There was a time that Holt also had questions.
Would this relationship work? Would Josh benefit? Would Holt continue to be there for him?
“After about 10 months I realized something, that this was going to work. It’s about the child. It’s not about me ... I understood that is what it is all about,” Holt said.
Now the only question that seems to be on their minds is who is going to win the next game of Yahtzee.