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'Someone to look up to'
Mentor program offers support, encouragement
Jeff Sprinkle watches while MacKean Robertson, 10, tees off Thursday at The Hooch Golf Club in Duluth. - photo by Frank Reddy

Those interested in becoming a part of Mentor Me-North Georgia can contact (678) 341-8028 or
For 10-year-old MacKean Robertson, spending time with an adult mentor brings a positive role model into his life.

"Living in a house with all girls, sometimes you can't handle it," said Robertson, who lives with his mother and grandmother in Forsyth County. "You need some guy time."

Robertson and mentor Jeff Sprinkle of Forsyth County were paired through the nonprofit organization Mentor Me-North Georgia. The group matches 6- to 12-year-old children with adults looking to make an impact in the lives of young people.

Sprinkle said the arrangement is mutually beneficial.

"I got a wife, three daughters and a female dog," Sprinkle said. "I think I need Mac more than he needs me. Not that females are bad, it's just sometimes we need a break."

Mentor Me-North Georgia is made up of many volunteers and staff who were formerly with the Forsyth County office of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northwest Georgia Mountains.

Barbara Dawson, media relations director for Mentor Me, said the local program grew strong enough to expand and become independent, serving communities beyond Forsyth, including Dawson and northern Fulton counties.

"We were getting phone calls in other counties," Dawson said. "People were asking for help. Now we can help them."

The mission of the program, she said, is to provide children with a responsible adult "who is there for them and is their friend, someone they can look up to."

"Granted, the single parents do that," she said. "But it's hard being a single parent, and it's always great to have that extra support."

Robertson appreciates the extra support, especially when it means heading out for a round of golf with Sprinkle.

"My favorite thing about golf is that you get to go out there and you get to have fun. And if you mess up, it's no big deal," said Robertson, a rising fifth-grader at Mashburn Elementary.

Sprinkle said playing golf with Robertson is always fun.

"We don't really follow the PGA tour rules much," Sprinkle said. "We have what we call 'do-overs.' Either we finish 18 or we run out of balls, whichever one happens first."

Robertson said he enjoys all the other activities he and Sprinkle participate in as well, including swimming, watching movies and rides on Sprinkle's motorcycle.

"Riding a motorcycle is an amazing experience," Robertson said. "As soon as you get on there, it feels so good to feel the wind in your face."

Robertson is Sprinkle's second match so far through the program. He also takes time out every week to visit with a 16-year-old.

It's not all fun and games between Sprinkle and the boys he mentors.

"We have some serious discussions about school sometimes, and how to make the right decision," he said.

Sprinkle, who is a board member with Mentor Me-North Georgia, has also done volunteer work with Division of Family and Children's Services.

"Seems like a lot of kids grow up in single-parent homes," Sprinkle said. "And I felt like if we gave these kids an opportunity to be around an adult role model it would help them.

"One thing I hope Mac gains from all this -- at some point, when he gets older -- if he comes into a situation where he has to make an important decision, maybe he'll remember something we talked about in our friendship ... he'll be able to revert back and say, 'I need to do the right thing here.'"

Dawson said that is the ultimate goal of the program.

"There's just more and more kids nowadays that need someone special in their life to help them stay on track, to help them with school and to help them become a good part of society," Dawson said.

E-mail Frank Reddy at