Jamie Gordon believes that he owes much of who he is today to the guidance and support he received from his two ‘big brothers’ during his time with Big Brothers Big Sisters St. Catharines, Thorold & District. Jamie attributes the recognition of his woodworking and carpentry skills, and now career path, to his first big brother Dean. It was however, his second big brother Joe that seems to have had a lasting impact on his life. Jamie’s “wild child personality” (as his mother described), was a great match for the recently retired Joe Dwyer. Jamie indicated that “Joe met me head on, and for an old guy, was pretty strong and held quite a youthful heart”. As Jamie reflects on this relationship, he has found that Joe was present as he learned countless valuable life lessons in regards to relationships and character.
Joe was there for some momentous occasions in Jamie’s life including helping him establish his first lawn mowing job, to helping him set up a bank account, all the while providing him with endless tips and lessons on how to save. It was because of these lessons that Jamie was able to support his passion for hockey, and put himself back on the ice. Jamie and Joe’s connection through hockey didn’t stop there. At one point, Joe had gotten season tickets to the Thorold Junior B team and this became a weekly event that the pair attended together. From there Jamie’s love and admiration for hockey hit an all-time high when Joe took him to his first NHL game where he watched the Buffalo Sabres take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. He left the arena that night with autographs from some of the Penguins players, and stars in his eyes. To this day, Jamie stills shows off his favourite picture from that night, with him and his hockey icon – Jaromir Jagr.
Joe also inspired Jamie in the lifestyle he lived. As a Big Brother, not only are you a friend to a child, but you also become a significant role model. Joe was a man of faith and would occasionally talk about his faith with Jamie, since Jamie also attended a Catholic School. In Grade 8, it was time for Jamie to have his confirmation and not only did he need support, but he also needed to be baptized. Joe ended up baptizing and being a God Parent to Jamie as well as his two brothers. Joe’s support of Jamie was endless. Jamie reflected on some of the simplest, though most memorable, outings he had with his big brother throughout the years. “We spent many outings just taking a trip out to Shorthills or to Rockway Glen just to take a hike…we took advantage of this time to discuss thoughts and feelings and it was an opportunity to get something off your chest”. Jamie identified these places as one of the few where he found peace. He now takes trips there with his children when they need to talk, or even if he just needs to clear his head.
Over time, Joe’s family became his own. Jamie remembers being accepted with open arms and feeling like he belonged. This was new to him. Jamie’s father had never been a part of his life, and this made his paternal family very distant. His mother’s family all lived in Alberta, and therefore he didn’t have much of a relationship with them either. It was having Joe, and being openly accepted into his family, that he really feels made a significant impact on his life. When Joe’s wife (Fran) passed away, Jamie was devastated. Not only had he never lost anyone close to him before, but he witnessed Joe’s pain and how he dealt with it. He indicated that this was “the first time I can say I began to understand what commitment of marriage was and love for that matter. It’s the commitment of working through EVERY ONE of life’s challenges, good and bad, and let God sort out the rest”.
It wasn’t too long after while Jamie was in his 20’s that his mother passed away. When Joe heard that Jamie’s mother had passed away, he spent three days trying to locate Jamie. Once he found him, he took him home and then took a drive to their favourite place – Shorthills. Jamie was able to talk, cry, and let go of anger that he had been bottling up. Looking back, Jamie realizes that he “needed a friend to learn to grow up, to stand by me when I made mistakes, and to direct me in the right direction.” Joe was that person.
Years later, Jamie found Joe again. Joe said that he was very proud of how well Jamie was living his life. Leaving Joe that day was one of the hardest things Jamie had done, because it was then that Jamie realized that he was leaving his best friend – someone who was there during the times when he needed a friend the most. Jamie “needed a friend to learn to grow up and stand by me when I made mistakes…without passing judgement and direct me in the right direction in order to correct it”, and Joe was that friend.
Recently, Jamie reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Catharines-Thorold and District to publicly recognize Joe for his many years of guidance and support. Jamie indicated that “words will never be enough and it starts with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Stan Baerg. Had BBBS not been there I wouldn’t have been blessed to of met these two great men (Dean & Joe) and can say I really don’t know where I’d be today. It really goes to show you age is truly just a number”.
On a beautiful Saturday morning, Jamie and Joe were surrounded by their families as they gathered with Big Brothers Big Sisters staff to recognize and celebrate Joe’s dedication and support of Jamie and the BBBS agency. Stories were shared, by Jamie and Joe, as well as countless words of thanks and admiration from agency staff. Both Joe and Jamie were lost for words during this celebration. But for those who were there, the love, respect and connection that these two shared could certainly be felt. It was the simple, yet overwhelmingly impactful outings and conversations that Joe and Jamie had that allowed Jamie to trust and respect an adult who cared about him and took the time to be a friend when he really needed one. Because of Joe, Jamie has said that “I am living my life happily with the confidence that there is no mountain too big I can’t move.” It is because of volunteers like Joe, that the agency is able to continue service children and youth and to share stories of trials, tribulations and triumphs.