I can’t believe I’m saying this, but on September 22, I am going to ride a bicycle for 25 miles—in a row—in the Rodman Ride for Kids to help raise resources for young people and volunteer mentors at Silver Lining Mentoring.

I haven’t ridden a bike in over a decade. I’ve never ridden 25 miles all at the same time. I haven’t so much as ran a mile in more than a year.

So why am I doing this to myself?

It’s because I deeply believe in Silver Lining Mentoring’s mission: to help young people impacted by foster care thrive through committed mentoring relationships and essential life skills. I’m ready to go the distance for SLM.

My social worker colleagues and the amazing mentors with whom I am lucky to work have taught me so much about what it means to show up for young people—especially the young people in foster care whom we serve at Silver Lining Mentoring.

It means being consistent, not only with your time, but also with your support, kindness, and understanding. This lets us show young people that we care about their time and respect their need for stability.

It means being open: open to hearing stories without judgment, open to feedback and growth, and open to the idea that you’re not there to “fix” anyone. In a desire to make their world better, one might turn to analysis and quick solutions when meeting young people and hearing their stories. But this might rob those young people of the opportunity to wrestle with life themselves, in a safe and accepting environment. Instead, our mentors model how to hear without judgment, and provide an open environment in which youth can learn about their lives at their own pace.

It means listening first. It’s not about listening for anything, but rather to someone. More than anything, our mentors are wonderful friends for each of our mentees. And, like great friends, they take the time hear our young people, providing them with open ears and comforting shoulders without their own agendas.

It means respecting someone for exactly whom they are, and being willing and able to meet them where they are. Our mentors don’t lead our young people along a path to success. Rather, they help young people understand their own choices and take advantage of their own opportunities. Rather than walk in front, our mentors walk with our young people as a source of support and caring.

These values and tenets are a part of the “secret sauce” that has been at the core of Silver Lining Mentoring for the past 16+ years. It’s a part of why our mentoring relationships are lasting an average of 55 months, six times the national average of nine months. Talk about going the distance!

These values help ensure that youths’ needs drive our work. They inspire me daily, and they will be my inspiration on September 22nd. I am proud to have the opportunity to go the distance for Silver Lining Mentoring, in the same way our mentors go the distance for our young people.

If you’d like to support our Rodman Ride for Kids team, or if you’d like to join me in riding, you can check out our support page here. Thank you for all you do to go the distance for our young people and volunteer mentors!