by Joe Sigurdson
Alcoholics and addicts understand the power of the give away, that our recovery is incumbent on giving away that which has been so freely given to us. That’s why we seek opportunities to serve — mostly inside the fellowship. Often this spirit of service extends beyond the rooms of our fellowship and into our greater communities. Boys to Men Mentoring Network is one of those community programs that has benefitted greatly through the fellowship of recovery and the power of the give away.
Every day young men are facing turning points in their lives. “Should I ditch class, drink this beer, smoke this joint, steal this I-Phone, hit this dude?” They face all kinds of decisions that can determine the trajectory of their lives.
Some of them have good fathers at home who act as a sounding board, offer advice, support and accountability. Many of them (35 % on average) don’t have a father or any other man available to help them and the only voice they hear is the one in their head. This often leads to impulsive bad decision making with lasting consequences.
Every week men in recovery show up in high schools and middle schools throughout San Diego County to sit in circles with mostly fatherless boys (85%). The Boys need someone too listen to their stories, accept them exactly as they are and encourage them to make the choices that will allow them to become the good men they want to be.
Why would boys show up every week to bare their hearts and unburden their souls? They are looking for community, to be a part of something bigger than them, to feel safe, share fellowship, to help themselves and others. They do it for the same reason people in recovery show up to meetings.
These boys feel the safety of the group because men in recovery share their experience, strength and hope. These men talk openly and honestly about the decisions they made as young men, the price they paid and how those consequences panned out over a lifetime. When the boys hear grown men being open, honest and vulnerable, it gives them permission to do the same. When the boys let go of their secrets and unburden their souls, their self-esteem and self worth rises. As they feel better about themselves a miraculous thing happens; magically their GPA and attendance go up, while their discipline problems go down. Sound familiar?
The 100 Wave Challenge fundraiser (held annually in September) makes it possible to support these boys and mentor them into responsible men. This event works like a walk-a-thon. Surfers create landing pages and send out links to their family and friends asking them to make a pledge for every wave they catch. Each surfer is responsible for raising $1,000.00. Last month, over 175 surfers caught over 17,000 waves and raised $345,000.00. This fundraising event set’s the budget for how many schools will be able to have the Boys to Men program offered at their facility. The cost for the program is $20,000.00 per school per year.
The entire day (from dawn to dusk) is geared toward keeping the surfers fresh, nurtured and relaxed so they can meet their goals of catching 100 waves! It’s fun and energetic. Our event sponsors provided breakfast (Souplantation), fresh fish tacos for lunch (Wahoo’s), hydration and refreshments (Sambazon, Guyaki, Coco Libre). We set up a little oasis of shade and encouragement under 2,000 square feet of pop-up tents with artificial grass, tropical plants and blow-up sofas because we know that 100 waves is physically challenging — even Shaun Tomson (world class surfing champion) needed an occasional break!
Recovery is achieved one-day-at-a-time. Healing a community is achieved one-person-at-a-time. Our boys are better off and grateful for the presence and generosity of people in our recovery community as they courageously strive to become men they can be proud of. Thank you!
Joe Sigurdson is the cofounder of Boys to Men Mentoring Network. Joe was a teenage father. He and his wife of thirty nine years Nancy have two children and seven grandchildren. Joe is an active member of 12-Step recovery with twenty seven years of sobriety. He has been active in the Mankind Project doing interpersonal work for the past twenty one years. His experiences in both these programs have given him insight to what he believes is lacking in our society, especially teenage boys. He has worked with thousands of men and boys. He knows that inside every boy is a desire to be a good man. Boys to Men has developed their approach to helping boys become better men by listening accepting and admiring them for who they are. These principles are the result of Joe’s path through life and recovery.
Joe has freely given away the Boys to Men program since it’s inception. Currently there are 12 Boys to Men communities in the United States and 15 more throughout, Europe, India, Africa and New Zealand.