Rich Gandarillas is a family man in more ways than one. He is married, has a stepdaughter and is a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Gahanna, Ohio. But with all of those obligations, Gandarillas still finds time to participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which selected him as the National Big Brother of the Year.
Gandarillas has been involved in the organization since 1986. These days he's a Big Brother to four youth — Devin, Jorge, Emmanuel and Alberto (last names withheld to protect the children).
He was paired in 2000 with Devin, and among their many shared activities, Gandarillas assists him with his studies. "Recently, Devin memorized the 9s in the multiplication table," Gandarillas said. "You should have seen his face when he successfully completed the set. It was a face that glowed so bright, he lit the city of Columbus [Ohio] that evening."
The local executive development director for Nationwide Insurance sees his other three Little Brothers each Tuesday. They work on homework, play board games, tell stories and talk about families and dreams for the future.
Gandarillas was instrumental in developing the first bilingual program for Hispanic/Latino students through a link with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Central Ohio and Nationwide's internal organization of employees, Raising Interest in Spanish Awareness.
"Watching my friends, I knew as a child that I was missing a close relationship with my father or another male role model," said Gandarillas, explaining his motivation for being a Big Brother. "From my childhood experience I learned the value of mentoring and knew that I would contribute to others in my life. In many ways, Devin reminds me of myself as a child — having great hunger to learn and share but not always having the means to fulfill that hunger."
For more information about becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, call (800) 892-2447.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers