A Journey to Joy: Mayfly Project Mentor to Big Sister

In the spring of 2022, a dear friend of mine, involved with the Mayfly Project in Bend, Oregon,
reached out with a unique opportunity. The offer? To become a mentor, teaching kids in foster care
how to fly fish. I remember feeling a mix of excitement and nerves – fly fishing was a passion of mine,
but mentoring children? That was a whole new stretch of river.

I didn’t have kids of my own (unless you count my two cats, Louie and Cinder), and my experience
with kiddos was limited. Questions and doubts swirled: Could I even teach an eight-year-old to fly
fish? Would I connect with them? What did they expect from me? But, the idea of combining my love
for fly fishing and volunteering was too enticing to pass up.

As I waded into mentorship, I quickly realized it wasn’t about being perfect, expectations, teaching
skills or having all the answers. It was about fun – the simple, unadulterated joy of being outside, in
the moment, and sharing in a hobby I loved with an incredible group of kids and mentors.

My second season with the Mayfly Project brought a special connection. One young girl, initially shy
and inward, began to open up. It started with me asking a kazillion questions to find out what she was
into. It eventually led to a vibrant conversation about her dog. As she spoke about Star, her face lit up;
she smiled, laughed, and emerged from her shell. In those moments, I could see she felt valued,
seen, and supported. And for me, seeing the impact this had on her, even if just for a couple of hours
on the water, was incredibly fulfilling.

This was a massive turning point in my life.

This year, 2023, was a tough one for me. Faced with some major career hurdles and personal
struggles like bouts of brutal depression, I found a need for meaning and purpose beyond myself.
Because of the magical experiences with the Mayfly Project, I decided to ramp up my volunteering.
I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon and became a Big Sister.

Now, three months in, I find myself paired with the most amazing, joyful, and Taylor Swift-obsessed
10-year-old Little Sister. Our time together is filled with laughter, connection, and so much fun! I’ve
come to realize that volunteering isn’t just for the benefit of my Little or the future fly fishing
enthusiasts of Central Oregon.

I realize now I benefit just as much from our time spent together as they do.

Looking back, I know that my journey with The Mayfly Project paved the way for this new, meaningful
chapter as a Big Sister. It was there that I gained the confidence, experience, and joy that led me to
make a year-long (and hopefully lifelong) commitment to another incredible young person.
My story is a testament to the power of stepping out of one’s comfort zone and, through volunteering,
finding a sense of purpose and belonging that has helped empower me and others.

A few summer days spent helping kids have opened the gates to more happiness, compassion, and
joy than I ever imagined. As I continue this journey, I’m grateful for the opportunities to grow, learn,
and share my passions, knowing that these experiences enrich not only the lives of these kids, but
mine as well.

Here’s to another fantastic year of being a Mayfly Project Mentor! And a Big Sister!

Peace and love,

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