“It was bad and I was angry. And I was scared,” said Ryan Hutchison, as he looks back 17 years.
Ryan was 13 years old then and had just received the devastating news about his father.
“I learned that he was gay and that he had AIDS,” said Ryan, who now lives in Austin, Texas.
Ryan didn’t know where to turn. His mom knew a place she hoped would ease her son’s pain and help him get through the most difficult time in his life. It was a place called Rise n' Shine.
“We created family,” said Janet Trinkhaus, who founded Rise n’ Shine almost a quarter century ago to help kids affected by AIDS. “What I believe family is, in the truest sense, you are there for your family members always.”
The hallmark of the non-profit is matching each child with an adult mentor who commits to four hours a week with a child for a year. Linda Chauncey was one of those mentors back then, matched up with a 13 year old named Ryan.
“He was a wonderful human being then at 13,” said Linda tearfully. “All those things were there. “
Linda, who is currently the Associate Dean of the Culinary Program at Seattle Central Community College, took Ryan to restaurants and museums. They did fun things together. They were in each other’s lives.
“And we talked about everything,” said Linda.
And even though the mentorship was supposed to last a year, in reality, it lasted a lifetime.
With Rise n' Shine, Ryan Hutchison received the best gift of all: a lifelong friend, whom he hadn’t seen in 10 years, until the other day.
“How ‘bout a hug?” were the first words out of Linda’s mouth after all these years.
They have a lot of catching up to do. Linda will learn that Ryan is paying it forward. He’s a development director for a non-profit that has programs to help children. Hutchison came back to Seattle to help Rise n’ Shine with a fundraiser. He told the donors that at Rise n’ Shine no one judged him.
“Nobody passed judgment on my having a gay dad with AIDS,” he said.
And he told them about his mentor, Linda Chauncey, who helped him get through those impossible times.
We all love happy endings. When I interviewed Ryan, I assumed his father had passed and I asked him how he dealt with his father’s passing at such a young age.
“He’s not dead,” Ryan told me. Turns out, Ryan’s dad survived and 17 years later is alive and well - a proud dad, no doubt, to see how his son has turned out.
Linda Chauncey shares that pride.
“You’re such a charmer Ryan,” Linda tells Ryan.
“You know why?” Ryan responds.
“Did I rub off on you?” Linda asks.
“You did rub off on me,” says Ryan.
Lucky Ryan and lucky Linda for having each other and for knowing this friendship, that began such a long time ago during some very dark times for a teenager, will last a lifetime.
For more information about Rise n’ Shine and the services they provide, including their membership program, you can go to risenshine.org. They’re always looking for volunteer mentors.
And speaking of mentors, the mentor of ALL mentors is the non-profit’s founder. In June of 2011, Washington State Mentors honored Janet Trinkhaus with the 2011 Champion of Mentoring Award.