Jim Ginn & Kyle Wheeler
When Jim Ginn and Kyle Wheeler were recently interviewed about their time together as Big Brother and Little Brother, we sensed a special bond running deep between these two men.
Jim moved to Little Rock from Houston, Texas in 1992, and became interested in serving as a Big Brother after attending a Toast & Roast fundraiser for the agency. Jim had one stipulation – he didn’t want an extremely young child.
It was Kyle Wheeler’s lucky day when the principal of his school referred Kyle’s mother to the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency. Kyle was getting into trouble at school, and since his father was not involved in his life, Kyle was in need of a positive male influence.
In 1995, the two were matched and remained so until 2001, when Kyle turned 18. “We hit it off from the very beginning,” said Jim. “Neither one of us were very shy.” One of Kyle’s favorite memories was a trip to Lake Ouachita, “We had our own little island and Jim brought scuba-diving gear,” Kyle said.
Another outing took them trout fishing on the White River. They shared a laugh while remembering an encounter with a three-legged dog on that trip. Other favorite activites included seeing movies and going to Big Brothers Big Sisters- sponsored events. “It was so natural for us,” Jim said, “It wasn’t an obligation.”
As Kyle got older, he was exposed to drugs. It became a challenge since everyone he was around was doing drugs. “Kyle made some poor decisions, but he realized he had somewhere to come for help,” Jim said. “It was very rewarding to be there for Kyle.” According to Kyle, “Jim helped me realize there is more there (than drugs).”
In 2001, Kyle graduated from high school. In the Spring of 2002, he enlisted in the Army to help finance college, but little did he realize he would spend six months in Kuwait and Iraq. Kyle is a Bradley crewmember in the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, and he was among the first military personnel to take part in the liberation of Baghdad. Jim kept close track of Kyle while he was in Iraq, “I bet I talked to Kyle’s mom two or three times each day.”
Kyle returned home July 25 for a well-deserved three-week leave. “I wanted to kiss the ground,” he said, “I got a shower and had some Popeye’s chicken.”
This special friendship helped steer a young boy named Kyle into a responsible adult – one who recently defended our country. As Jim showed us pictures of Kyle in Iraq, the pride in his eyes was evident.