KNOXVILLE (WATE) - There are a number of mentoring programs in East Tennessee, but one of the more popular is Big Brothers Big Sisters.
One relationship, while only a few months old, is already paying dividends for those involved.
With every roll of the bowling ball 11-year-old Jamal Holloway learned a little bit more about the sport. His first few rolls found the gutter.
But then, a break through. Pins began to fall, and suddenly high fives and smiles broke out.
And so it is with bowling and with the growing relationship between Jamal and Ryan Willis.
"Ryan has no brothers. He treats me like I'm his real little brother and I have to take care of him and make sure he's doing right. I'm like his real little brother," Holloway said.
Willis is a local public relations expert who decided earlier this year that mentoring a young person was something he wanted to do.
He turned to Big Brothers and was matched with Jamal.
That was in August.
"One of the things with Jamal is every time we do something we talk about school. We talk about life at home and he's helped me out a lot and is one of the nicer kids and most respectful kids," Willis said of Holloway. "I tell everybody when we go somewhere he goes out of his way to open the door and it says a lot about him and teaches me a thing or two."
And while the pair may only get together every couple of weeks, they're on the phone a lot - sometimes just to chat, but others times to help solve a problem.
"If I'm stuck on my homework and my mom or dad don't know it, I can call Ryan and ask hey do you know about this? And he will tell me," Holloway said.
One of the big issues between the two is preparing Jamal for his future, and right now that includes college, which is still many years away.
"Going forward no matter we'll always be friends and we always talk about college and getting a scholarship. And we talk about ways to meet that goal," Willis said. "He's only 11 and he's got years ahead of him to get ready for college."
Ryan's hope for Jamal is to be the best person he can be. Helping to nurture that goal is something that is very much the spirit of East Tennessee.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.