CYC is thrilled to dedicate the April CYC Hero to Harry Blanton for his efforts as a devoted mentor. With April containing National Volunteer Week, Harry’s eighteen years of volunteer mentoring certainly deserve this recognition.
Harry’s desire to give back was nurtured while he attended St. Xavier High School. “The motto of the school was ‘Men for Others,’” says Harry, “The school, through the teachers and staff, instilled in the students the understanding that we were encouraged to use our talents to do good in the world and to help others who might need our help.”
Years later, Harry signed up to mentor with CYC and was matched with his first mentee, Patrick. Just nine years old, Patrick was growing up in poverty in Price Hill. He remembers, “There were times that I did not know what my next meal would be or if we would have electric or hot water the next day.” With Patrick’s father incarcerated and his mother struggling with drug addiction, Harry stepped in and became not only Patrick’s friend, but a role model, fatherly figure, and family.
“The moment Harry came into my life, it changed forever,” says Patrick. “Harry gave me hope. He was someone who believed in me and gave me a chance to be successful.”
Harry and Patrick went out every Saturday together, which was a treat, since Patrick’s family could not afford to do many activities. Whether they were doing homework, going out to eat or to sporting events, Harry was always there. Even when Patrick struggled with school, Harry encouraged him to keep going, and Patrick ended up attending St. Xavier High School. When Patrick’s home life made school success difficult, Harry opened his home to Patrick and became his guardian. With Harry’s guidance, Patrick became the first person in his family to graduate from college.
“The biggest impact Harry made in my life was that he was present,” Patrick says, “Harry has changed my life forever with his caring compassion. I am forever grateful.” Now 27 years old, Patrick is giving back in his own way as a Financial Counselor at TriHealth. He is very involved in URGE and Young Professionals, both Employee Resource Groups at TriHealth, and he is attending the College of Mount St. Joseph for a Masters in Organizational Leadership.
“I am so proud of the man that [Patrick] has become and how he is now helping his younger siblings and others in the community,” says Harry.
Not only do Harry’s mentees receive his positive influence, but Harry also receives a lot in return from being a mentor: friendship, a sense of purpose, and the joy of seeing young kids grow and become wonderful human beings.
Harry finds it best to focus on patience. He thinks that being patient is the key to mentoring and connecting with mentees. “Early on in my relationship with Patrick, I didn’t think I was getting through to him,” Harry says, “If I would have moved on, I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship that has lasted 18 years.”
It eventually became clear that Patrick had become more of a friend than a mentee–they even have plans to go to Italy this summer! So Harry asked if Patrick would be okay with him taking on new mentees, which of course he was.
Harry was matched with another nine-year-old boy, J*, who had two younger brothers. The relationship was progressing well, but one day when Harry came to pick up J, he could tell the mother was at the end of her rope.
“All four of them were being housed temporarily in a one-room hotel room,” he recalls. “I could tell she was under a lot of stress. So, I offered to take all three of them for the day. That’s how it started.”
What started is that Harry is now mentoring all three boys. He describes the dynamic as “cool but challenging,” as he works to find a balance of giving each boy enough one-on-one attention. His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Cheri, one of Harry’s Mentor Coordinators at CYC, expresses her appreciation saying, “He always makes himself available and always gives updates on how his mentees are doing. It is a pleasure to have a mentor who invests so much time with a genuine heart with all the kids he works with.”
Academics have been a particular challenge this time around, and Harry found himself reassessing his own expectations. “I realized someone can still be a productive member of society without a college degree,” he reflects. “I help them out as much as possible, get them as far as I can, and that may be enough.”
And of course, though his relationship with his three mentees is different than what he had with Patrick, the affection and connection is still there. He looks back with joy on the day when one of the boys was asked to make a Father’s Day card at school and chose to make his for Harry. “I just love them,” he says. “They’re human beings with aspirations. You want to help them.”
CYC Mentors are taught that when you are assigned a student, you do not give up on them right away. At times, the relationship with a mentee may be difficult and hit rough patches. But if you are willing to remember why you became a mentor in the first place, pushing through the obstacles and connecting with the kids will be worth it in the end.
Harry Blanton, with his patience and compassion, is a prime example of a successful mentor. CYC is deeply grateful for his years of volunteerism, and is overjoyed to recognize him as a CYC Hero. In the words of Cheri, “He is a very humble person. He really does deserve to be acknowledged.”
*Student’s name omitted for privacy.
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CYC Heroes is a monthly feature recognizing individuals who go above and beyond expectations to serve the CYC community. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes: mentors, students, ambassadors, employees, donors, volunteers, and board members. Know someone who makes CYC stronger? Submit your CYC Hero nomination to Kate Elliott, at firstname.lastname@example.org