A 40-year friendship between Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District volunteer Andy Pawlyk and his Little Brother Chris Selathamby initially started with a personal tragedy for Pawlyk.
In the mid-1970s, Pawlyk and his family realized they would not be able to conceive a child of their own — which left a void in their lives. That void led them to them approaching what was then known as Red Deer Big Brothers.
Red Deer Big Brothers, which has since amalgamated to be Big Brothers Big Sisters, matched Pawlyk with Selathamby.
“It took awhile for the mother to approve of letting go of her son to be with me but on Oct. 18th, 1978 it became final,” Pawlyk said. “We were officially together.”
The pair, who were recently recognized for their 40-year match at Lacombe Big Brothers Big Sisters Great Big Christmas Dinner and Awards Night, initially took an interest in film photography.
“I was into photography and so he and I were taking pictures at City Hall Park,” Pawlyk said.
Since then, their friendship grew into an everlasting friendship that has joined two families together.
“It brought Chris, his mom and his family closer and included in our family. We were all one,” he said.
That connection has included Selathamby being named Pawlyk’s adopted daughter’s godfather as well as a push by both families to help each other out over the course of four decades.
“As time went by, we came to the conclusion that all of us never really texted each other — we always spoke. By talking to each other on the phone it helped us pick up on each other’s feelings,” Pawlyk said.
Mentorship has not only given Pawlyk a life-long friend — it has also given him a will to continue to support Lacombe Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“My theory is that if you help a child stay off the streets, you have done your job. I know all those people that mentor today try hard and they all do a good job,” he said, adding that in his experience — a child always will love someone they can look up to.
“One hour minimum a week is all they ask. When I started it was two hours. Chris and I broke that rule,” he said.
Pawlyk said having their friendship recognized at the Awards Night was an honour and he is currently researching whether their 40-year match is a world record.
“It is nice to know that we are still matched even though we are 51 and 71,” he said.
He added, “Keep up the good work Crystal Zens and her staff and for the Big Brothers — know that there is a huge light at the end. That is what it has been for Chris and I.”