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Leading by example

FOR A GOOD CAUSE --

March 08, 2000

Amy R. Spurgeon

For two hours, all 12-year-old Arik Brown had to worry about was what to

order at Wahoo's Fish Taco restaurant, and whether it would be miniature

golf or skee ball at Palace Park.

Arik's dilemma was made possible only because 35-year-old Steve Trujillo

of Costa Mesa decided to get involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of

Orange County, a volunteer mentorship program.

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"I think the greatest gift our heavenly Father gives us is

relationships," said Arik's mother, Janine Brown.

Arik is the oldest of two children being raised by a single mother in

Costa Mesa. Brown enrolled her son in the program two years ago with

hopes of connecting him with a strong, male influence.

"Steve is a thoughtful and ethical person and is a role model for a man

who follows through with what he says he is going to do," Brown said.

The organization has been arranging relationships throughout Orange

County for more than 42 years. The "littles" are children between the

ages of 6 and 16 who need someone to help increase their self-confidence,

motivation and better their lives with time.

Mentors undergo a screening process based on their age and their

residential and employment history. Next, program officials pair up a

mentor and a child who have similar interests. It took more than a year

to find the right match for Arik.

But both agree it was worth the wait.

"Sometimes, I'm the big brother," said Trujillo, who works for a local

investment advisory firm. "It depends on who has the better go-cart."

During their dinner of taquitos, enchiladas, burritos, rice and beans,

the pair reminisced about things they had done since meeting in December.

So far, it's been watching professional basketball, hockey and baseball

games, but Trujillo knows that Arik is just around the corner from

serious issues like careers, colleges and girls.

"I've decided not to date because you could ruin friendships at a young

age," Arik said. "I think dating is better when you're older because it's

not like you are ready to make a major commitment."

"He's only 12," said Trujillo. "I'm not going to let him date."

After washing down their food with a swig of soda, the pair headed toward

the small amusement park nestled alongside the Long Beach Freeway.

Trujillo and Arik first tackled the miniature golf course. Cher's song

"Believe" blared from loudspeakers, cars on the freeway whizzed by and

sluggers smacked balls in the batting cages just feet away. But the two

just concentrated on their game.

After 18 holes of casual scoring, the two moved toward the Thunder Road

race track. There they zipped competitively around the track as many

times as possible before being flagged in. Then they hopped right back in

line to go again.

The evening was not complete without video games. Arik selected two games

as Trujillo stood by patiently, clearly unmotivated by the action.

"That's my game over there," Trujillo said, pointing to the Claw, a

stuffed animal game.

When the quarters ran out, the guys headed home.

"I will always be here for Arik," Trujillo said. "As long as he will have

me."

"Yeah, always," said Arik.

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