Making a Friend for Life

For the past year, Natalie Johnstone and John Reals have become a regular sight on our Gillis Campus. Their passion for Cornerstones of Care and our children is evident in the generosity of the time they give.

“In January of 2015, my office hosted a blanket drive for the Gillis Campus. During our campus tour, I felt strongly like there was something I could do to help, so I signed up as a volunteer,” recalls Natalie.

At first, Natalie participated in monthly game nights and tried to say “yes” when asked to assist during special events, but as she got to know the kids, and could see the direct impact that volunteering made on them, she invited her boyfriend, John to join her. John has a degree in Criminal Justice, and has spent the majority of his career working with troubled youth. “The first event we did together was the school carnival and I knew immediately that he had a real gift. He speaks their language and is always ready for a game of kickball,” says Natalie. She continues, “We make a good team as volunteers — I like to organize and plan fun projects. He reminds me to go with the flow and have fun whether the projects are going as planned or not.”

In 2017, Natalie and John decided to take their volunteering to a new level. Natalie joined our Spirit Awards event committee and then they both became a mentor to a 12-year-old boy. Through our mentoring program, mentors are required to go through an interview process and training before they are matched with a child or young adult based on their interests.

“For the first six weeks, it was really about getting to know each other and understanding our boundaries. And since then, we've really formed our own little family around him. Together, we've had a lot of fun — birthday parties, park trips, bike riding, shoe shopping, trick-or-treating, and dinners out,” says Natalie. She continues that they’ve also had some challenges along the way. “I have to say that, so far, those fun times outweigh the challenges — hands down.”

As a volunteer or mentor, you have the ability to make a significant impact in a young person’s life. For many of the youth we serve, they haven’t had the opportunity to build consistent, one-on-one, healthy relationships with adults who they can trust.

Natalie and John have realized that the time they spend with their mentee is impacting his life in a positive manner. “We’re teaching him about life beyond Cornerstones of Care, and helping him understand his options for the future,” says Natalie. She continues, “We get so much out of it, knowing that he has a support system and reminding us that this world is so much bigger than our little block in Prairie Village … I'm confident that wherever this journey takes us, we have a friend for life. And we take comfort in knowing that we're impacting young lives in a positive manner.”

Did you know that youth with mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions later on in life? You have the ability to make a significant impact in a child or young adults life. Learn more about becoming a mentor.