Mercy Home’s Friends First Mentoring Program is a game changer in the lives of boys like Jordan.

Before Jordan met his Friends First mentor, all he wanted to do was learn how to ride a bike. Even though he’s 10 years old, he never learned. He didn’t have many people in his life, especially positive male role models, to coach him.

His father was never in the picture and all his uncles and cousins were bad influences. His single mother worked nights and weekends, leaving little time for her son. She wished she could spend more time with him, but putting food on the table came first.

That’s why she reached out to Friends First, hoping to find a mentor for Jordan.

Prior to meeting his match, Jordan was shy and embarrassed about not knowing how to ride a bike. Kids at school teased him about it and making friends was tough, but he still held on to his dream: riding a bike along the Chicago lakefront, even though it felt like a world away.

Though bullies at school made Jordan shy and withdrawn, all that changed when he met his mentor, Andre.

On their first outing, Andre took one look at Jordan’s old, rusty bike and said, “Before you learn to ride, you need to learn how to take care of this.” Andre showed Jordan how to clean the chain, replace brake pads, and change a flat tire.

“The smile on Jordan‘s face when he finally found his balance was priceless,” Andre said. “Right there — that’s why I became a Friends First mentor.”

Next time, Andre and Jordan walked to a park with the tuned-up bike. Jordan was scared of falling on the sidewalk, so Andre instructed him to practice in the grass. Andre ran behind, holding the seat.

“The smile on Jordan’s face when he finally found his balance was priceless,” Andre said. “Right there — that’s why I became a Friends First mentor.”

Riding bikes became Jordan and Andre’s thing. They started out small, pedalling around the park, but soon branched out to explore different neighborhoods. Once Jordan built up enough confidence, Andre suggested the ultimate outing: a bike ride along Chicago’s lakefront.

This was a dream come true for Jordan, who always felt that downtown, the skyline, and the lake was another world away. Not anymore. Now, the city feels accessible, like it belongs to him. And there’s so much more for Jordan to discover, thanks to Andre, his Friends First mentor.

It’s easy to make a difference, like Andre did. Just being present and being yourself is all it takes.

Friends First is always looking for mentors, especially men from diverse backgrounds. Kids like Jordan are waiting for people to be that spark of inspiration in their lives. Maybe that’s you, or someone you know.

If so, take the next step by attending a Friends First info session to learn more about becoming a mentor. To RSVP, please contact Tilisha Harrison at [email protected] or call 312-738-6365.

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