The bond between John MacDonald and Justin, his “Little,” was evident as the boy fixed his mentor’s hair just before MacDonald received an award. Their playful banter also was shown as the 12-year-old quickly snatched MacDonald’s plaque and said he was going to hang it on his wall.
“He’s earned it in the three yeas he’s put up with me,” MacDonald quipped.
Justin’s adoration for his “Big,” was evident as well.
“I think he should get this award next year and the year after that because he’s that good,” Justin said.
MacDonald, a former longtime Associated Press reporter and editor who now owns his own consulting firm, was one of two Mentors of the Year honored Thursday. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock presented the award to MacDonald, calling him a superhero.
MacDonald has been a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters for three decades, starting when he was an 18-year-old college student. Justin is his fifth “Little.”
His first little brother, Zac, is still a part of his life. As part of the nomination for the recognition, Zac wrote a letter of support, saying that after he moved away and MacDonald was mentoring another boy, their bond remained.
“Even though we lived hundreds of miles apart, John was there for me throughout my teenage years. He was there to watch me graduate and he stood beside me at the altar as my best man on the day I was married,” Zac wrote.
“Now 27 years later, John is still fulfilling that same role. Our hair is a little thinner and our waists are a little thicker, but he is still my Big Brother and is loved and known by my wife and kids as Uncle John,” he added.
After he was presented the award at Lattes and Sundaes, MacDonald took the opportunity to solicit for more volunteers or cash donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“A lot of you would be fantastic mentors,” he told the crowd.
Statistics from Big Brothers Big Sisters show that youth who are involved in supportive relationships and activities are less likely to be involved in crime, to skip school or use drugs and alcohol. Bullock said these reasons inspired him to create the Montana Mentor of the Year as well as Afterschool Provider of the Year awards in 2010 to recognize individuals who have made a positive difference in the lives of children. Bullock presented a second award to Butte mentor Janel Morgan.
MacDonald said his relationship with Justin is mutually beneficial. Justin taught him to ride a horse, or at least attempted to.
“We should never take ourselves too seriously. I think that’s the key,” MacDonald said.
Reporter Angela Brandt: 447-4078 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/IR_AngelaBrandt