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Big Brothers Big Sisters helps military families through mentor program

By Jennifer Kendall, jkendall@ktxs.com
Published On: Feb 07 2014 09:49:11 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 08 2014 02:43:47 PM CST
ABILENE, Texas -

Less than two years ago Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Texas started a military mentor program for children of active duty military.

According to Big Brothers Big Sisters, children in mentoring programs are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, skip school or become physically violent. They also have more confidence and get along with family members better.     

The military mentor program has had some trouble getting off the ground, but currently serves 18 children whose parents are airmen at Dyess Air Force Base.

Susanne Cruz started working with the program last year. That’s when she noticed her daughter Hannah could use her own mentor to deal with her father's deployment.

Hannah met her big sister Tory Benner last year.

"It's just fun to have somebody to hang out with, to understand you and you can have a lot of fun activities," said Hannah.

"We were both really quiet and shy at the beginning of our relationship and now we've kind of both come out of our shell a little bit and she just freely talks to me about anything and everything," said Benner. 

One thing Hannah talks about is her dad. Juan Cruz is an airman stationed at Dyess. Last year he was deployed for nine months to Afghanistan. Hannah’s mom Susanne said it hit her daughter hard.

"I think she wouldn't be the anxious, nervous person that she is today," said Susanne.

"When my dad is deployed it's very lonely, just me and my mom," said Hannah. "He could get in a very bad accident and probably die and I just don't want to happen."

To help her cope, Susanne signed Hannah up with a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"That gives her an outlet where she can actually say, ‘I hate this,’ or ‘My mom cries all the time,’ or ‘I don't know what to do when she gets on my nerves,’ or ‘I'm scared my dad could die and not come home,’" said Susanne. 

"I love the difference that I'm already seeing in her. I mean just in different ways. We both changed a lot throughout our relationship and I enjoy it," said Benner.      

Big Brothers Big Sisters serves more than one thousand children in military families in the U.S. They don't only help kids of active duty parents. They also help children of veterans, fallen or wounded soldiers and they are always looking for volunteers.

To volunteer you can call or visit their office or apply online.