Big Brothers Big Sisters organization creates friendship between mentor and mentee

Eight years ago, Chris Bauders and James Grace forged a strong bond through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Chris Bauders has been mentoring 19-year-old James Grace for quite a while now.

"He was very young at the time. You know, he was," shared Bauders. "He's still very young, but he was 11."

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As a senior relationship manager in commercial banking, Bauders wanted to make a difference beyond just earning money, so he joined Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"Started out as a volunteer in 2015. And, that's when I got matched up with James and, as a little. And so we've been matched, all the way since," said Bauders.

Pictured: Chris Bauders and James Grace

James lost his father when he was a child so he found support in Bauders. Over time, their relationship has flourished.

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"I need to talk about my family, talk about friends, talk about school, like I just needed somebody there to be able to listen," said Grace. "And he did that. He was able to give me input and his advice on anything that I needed, and I feel like having him has helped me out a lot in life."

Grace has graduated from high school and is attending St. Petersburg College to pursue his goal of becoming a personal trainer.

"If you feel like you don't have anybody in your corner, they will give you somebody that will be there and stick by you and will help you out in life," Grace stated.

The encouragement Grace has received has played a crucial role in shaping his life for a promising future.

"There's different ways of living and not to just always be so uptight sometimes and that you can relax and just let yourself be," Grace added.

"I think he definitely contributed to my growth as well. I mean, you know, I feel like, you know, I probably left a little bit with him, but I feel like, you know, even now, I mean, when we're talking, there's things that he's done that have really shaped and influenced me too," Bauders said.