A Lifetime Commitment
When Dale Long talks to others about Big Brothers Big Sisters he often shares a fish story. He begins by describing his first brand-new car and the friendship with the little boy riding next to him. Heading out for their first fishing trip, he then talks about the bucket full of fresh minnows resting at the little boy’s feet. Dale says the “new car smell” was eliminated that day, but the friendship was not. That first Little Brother was just the beginning of Dale’s relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Now 58, Dale has been a dedicated champion of Big Brothers Big Sisters since 1974. Since joining Big Brothers Big Sisters shortly after college, he’s shared his life as a Big Brother to seven boys. In 2010, he met Mawntel, his eighth Little Brother.
While Dale became a Big Brother as a young college graduate, he gained a sense of purpose at an even earlier age through a life-changing childhood event.
A member of Birmingham, Alabama’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church as a child in 1963, Dale was in the basement when a bomb exploded at the church killing four young girls who were his friends. A brief encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at one of the girl’s funeral’s had a profound impact on Dale. He realized his life would serve a greater purpose. He committed himself to making a difference. That’s exactly what he’s done through Big Brothers Big Sisters for nearly four decades.
Dale believes Big Brothers Big Sisters makes a tremendous impact in the lives of children because it allows people to engage in the human condition.
“Mentoring children and encouraging them to reach beyond their social ties and setbacks is a fundamental principal that Big Brothers Big Sisters strives to accomplish,” said Dale.
“Kids didn’t ask to come into this world. They aren’t given a choice about the circumstances of the life they are born into,” said Dale. “It is every person’s responsibility to serve those who are in need of support and guidance, especially when it comes to the kids. How else will they realize that their circumstances can be different? That their lives can be different than what they know today? They won’t…unless we show them it’s possible.”
Dale considers educating youth the most vital step towards success. He guides his Little Brothers to prepare them for success through education.
“My job is to spend quality time with him. I try to bring him things that he’s probably not going to see at home,” he says.
Dale credits his success to his parents. “My mom and dad were there for me…and sacrificed to get me to school,” he says. “They provided me someone to look up to in life. I feel it is my obligation to pay it forward to other children who don’t have that role model in life, especially young boys without fathers.”
As a man involved in many organizations, Dale sees them all as opportunities to recruit mentors. Investing in children is something he feels everyone should do. He’s constantly encouraging others to start making a positive influence in the lives of at-risk kids by becoming a mentor. His church, his fraternity and even members of his yoga group all know that if they aren’t mentors, Dale will keep asking until they commit. Just ask his wife who after more than 20 years of supporting Dale, finally committed to becoming a Big Sister herself just this year.