“A person can always make time to make a difference.” That’s what Roger DeFeyter said 25 years ago when he met his first Kids Hope USA student at Pine Creek Elementary School. Dean was 7 years old, and after just 20 minutes of getting to know each other, he and Roger began to form a bond that would last for several years. Roger has served as a mentor through Intersection Ministries, formerly Grace Reformed Church, since the founding of Kids Hope USA. In fact, the picture here, captured in the library of Pine Creek Elementary, may have been their very first Kids Hope USA mentoring session.
When asked about what it’s been like to walk into Pine Creek Elementary School every week for the last 25 years, Roger said, “I always look forward to meeting with my Kids Hope student. Mentoring never feels like work to me, it’s fun!” Roger doesn’t keep track of how many students he’s mentored, but many of his friendships have lasted for years. “The shortest was just one week before the student moved away, and the longest has been 5 years, from first to 5th grade.” He’s still in regular contact with some of the students and their families, even when they’ve moved out of state. The mother of one of Roger’s students shared the impact he had on her son’s life. “Roger has been a very important part of our lives. He never gave up on my son. Even when my son got in trouble, Roger met with him, pushed him to stay in school and gave him hope. My son now works in a hospital and is doing well.”
I can see why children like Roger because he’s a good listener. He’s kind, funny and makes people feel at ease. Like all children, the students he meets with have challenges, but they also have lots to offer, and Roger accepts them for who they are, just as they accept him. Roger offers the children something they need; one-on-one time with a caring adult who listens, encourages, builds confidence and walks alongside them as they navigate the early years of school.
And the boys offer him an hour of fun, games, reading and friendship too. Like many mentors, Roger doesn’t always know the difference he’s making in their lives, but that’s not a big deal for him. He’s been a mentor for 25 years because he’s “answering God’s call to love and serve others. Kids need help and the Lord leads me to help.”
As we enter our 25th year of mentoring, we celebrate you, Roger, and every Kids Hope USA mentor who transforms lives, one hour at a time, one child at a time, year after year! We are grateful for you!