With eyes toward the military and a mind that absorbs new experiences, Tony Lance received the Robin Myer Realizing Potential Award on April 30.
Tony, a Little Brother, picked up the award on April 30 at the BBBS office in Asheville. Celebrating his achievements were several BBBS staff members and Barry, his Big Brother of about 10 years.
“He showed me things my family couldn’t,” Tony, a student at McDowell High School, said of his Big. “We went places and experienced things. He talked about his past, which sounds like a really good life because he’s been all over the world. Story after story – I don’t think he can run out of stories.”
“And some of them are true,” Barry, a great storyteller, said laughing.
Tony’s decade with “Mr. Barry,” as he calls him, has had a huge impact on both of their lives.
“My motivation in school would have been less” without Mr. Barry, Tony said. Barry inspired him to do things he likely wouldn’t have done, Tony said.
Barry, 79, shares with Tony a lot of his own childhood, hoping it will help. An only child raised by a single mother, Barry grew up in the outback of Australia in a house without indoor plumbing and with a Texaco sign for one of its walls.
“I tried to relate for Tony the things he was going through to the things I was going through at the time,” Barry said, “just to let him know that he wasn’t experiencing anything that made him a bad person. This is just growing up.”
The two see each other once or twice a month, even though Tony now lives in McDowell County and Barry lives in north Georgia. On those days, Barry hits the road at 6 a.m. and gets home around midnight.
They were matched by former staffer Jill Hartmann, who told Barry, Barry recalls, that if he wasn’t committed to the match, then not to start. “I always remembered that” he said.
“Because of Tony’s intellectual curiosity, our conversations are very deep, Barry said. “His mind is like a sponge.”
The Robin Myer Realizing Potential Award is named for Robin Myer, who was Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina for 27 years when he retired in May 2020.