Big Buddy on volunteer experience: 'It's the best feeling on earth'


Big Buddy of the Cape Fear is a one-on-one mentoring program for at-risk youth in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties. It's a program that enriches everyone involved.
Gus Villapiano and his little buddy, 11-year-old Dieuquan Hyppolite, were matched up a few months ago.
“What caught my attention was, you know, he was a well-spoken kid and he’s an honor roll student, which, you know, that impressed me a lot,” Villapiano said. “He felt right. Everything was meant to be.”
Hyppolite said his mother signed him up for the program. While he is on summer break, Hyppolite's brothers and sisters both attend year-round school.
“All I do is sit in the house while my siblings go to school," he said. 
Villapiano said he tries to do something different with Hyppolite every week, whether it's teaching him a new sport or taking him to different restaurants around Wilmington.
"He’s got opportunities now that maybe he didn’t because of the Big Buddy program and that’s what it’s all about," Villapiano said. “Giving them a leg that they might not have had, giving them a step that they might not have had.”
Hyppolite, who attends Myrtle Grove Middle School, said Villapiano has inspired him to continue trying new activities.
“I never even knew how to play football,” Hyppolite said.
Though the program only requires Villapiano to spend eight hours a month with Hyppolite, the two will soon be seeing each other several days a week. Villapiano signed up to coach Hyppolite on a Pop Warner football team, which starts practice in August.
“He’s very athletically talented so it’s going to be exciting watching him grow,” Villapiano said.
It might be a helping hand for Hyppolite, but Villapiano said it's truly a calling.
"Anyone who's looking for what life's all about should volunteer," he said. "If you really want to know what life's about, give something. Serve someone. It's the best feeling on earth."
According to Annie Anthony with Big Buddy of the Cape Fear, there is currently a huge need for more men to volunteer in the program, especially African American men.
If you're interested in becoming a Big Buddy, you can apply here.
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