Greg Durio of El Dorado Hills has been chosen Big Brother of the Year by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Dorado County.
Durio, 49, and Kamryn, 10, have been matched for three-and-a-half years, since Kamryn was 7. They’ve remained friends through several moves that have left them in different cities an hour away from each other.
The bond between the Big Brother and Little Brother has endured because Durio takes his commitment to Kamryn seriously.
“I did some soul searching when he and his mom moved to Vacaville and it became a two-and-a-half-hour drive to get to him,” said Durio, “but for me, it’s about providing consistency for Kamryn — so he knows he has a friend that will stick by him.”
When Durio moved to El Dorado Hills from Pennsylvania in 2006 as part of a job transfer, he wanted to add another dimension to his life and give back to his new community.
“I have two nieces and a nephew and I really like kids, but have none of my own,” said Durio. “I checked into Big Brothers Big Sisters and it seemed like something I could do.”
It was challenging to carve out time from his workaholic schedule each week to meet with his new Little, but Durio was committed.
“In some ways it was harder than I thought because I was in my 40s and I thought of Big Brothers as people in their 20s,” said Durio. “Also, I hadn’t played checkers or some of the games a 7-year-old is interested in, in a long time, so I had to relearn them.”
Kamryn had an actively involved mother in his life but no father.
“I think that not having a father figure affects a kid in ways they don’t even know,” said Durio. “Kamryn needed someone who would spend one-to-one time with him, with him being their only focus.”
Both of them learned — Durio, a “reformed city boy,” learned how to play again and Kamryn learned about the world around him and explored his own growing abilities.
“He’s stronger and can do a lot more now than he thought he could,” said Durio.
Weekly meetings grew into meetings plus Thursday night dinners at Durio’s home with Kamryn’s mother and Durio’s partner. Soon the Big and Little started spending holidays and birthdays together, going on extended weekend trips to Disneyland and traveling to Durio’s family get-together in Tennessee.
“This is worth doing,” said Durio. “I’m better at dealing with kids now. Things that would have thrown me the first year, don’t throw me now. ”
Most of the activities Durio and his Little do are interactive and outdoors.
“We play baseball, basketball, Frisbee and soccer. Kamryn likes video games, but that’s not my idea of quality time,” said Durio. “The best times are when we play — like squirt gun fights and sometimes we include his friends when we go biking or swimming. It’s amazing how fast the time goes when we are together.”
Kamryn said going to parks with Durio and trying to get him to do all the obstacle courses is one of his favorite things. One day he would like to be a Big Brother.
“He helps me with my problems,” said Kamryn. “I’d be a Big Brother because I’d have someone to play with and have fun with.”
While Durio said he is flattered by his selection as Big Brother of the Year, “Recognition is not why I do this. I appreciate the work that Big Brothers Big Sisters does and respect the process, but I want Kamryn to have a happy life and become a reasonably well-adjusted person. I want him to realize that there is a big world out there with many opportunities for him. The sky is the limit and I can help facilitate this for him.”