Until a month ago, 12-year-old Elijah Mable thought he would spend July 20 just like he does most Saturdays: at home playing video games on his Nintendo DS or iPad, or maybe riding his bike through his North Wendover Road neighborhood.But his mentor, Kojo Ghartey-Tagoe, told Elijah, a home-schooled sixth-grader, that they would be enjoying a day on Lake Norman as part the ninth annual Big Day at the Lake, a community effort that benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte.Cornelius resident and boat owner Mike Griffin was one of the boat hosts for the event. He had several recreational activities on the day’s agenda, none of which had Elijah ever experienced.But the one Elijah most looked forward to was fishing.Ghartey-Tagoe, a 50-year-old corporate lawyer who lives at Providence Country Club, said he had never been fishing, either. By the end of the day, though, he and Elijah had a fish story and another bond in their relationship.The two were matched as Big Brother and Little Brother about two years ago. At the time of their match, Elijah said he wanted a Big Brother because he was being bullied at school.Ghartey-Tagoe is a native of Ghana. He got involved with BBBS shortly after moving from Richmond, Va., to Charlotte in 2002. He became a Big Brother in 2006 and served as a member of its board of directors through 2010.Ghartey-Tagoe is the father of three daughters – Effe, 21; Aseda, 19; and Gracie, 17. He promised his family he would only mentor through BBBS’s school-based program until all of his girls completed high school. But when Elijah’s mother started home-schooling him, he was no longer eligible for the school-based program.But Ghartey-Tagoe wanted to stick by Elijah through BBBS’s community-based program, which would be a slightly bigger commitment. He smiled when he says his family accommodated his request.Among the activities he and Elijah participate in are playing soccer at the Naomi Drenan Recreation Center, visiting Discovery Place and going to the library. Ghartey-Tagoe said Elijah’s reading ability has improved, but they continue to work on his reading comprehension.Though Ghartey-Tagoe had participated in the Big Day at the Lake as a board member, this is the first year he accompanied someone he was mentoring.“I love the times when they would bring matches to tell about their story and how the Big Brother would impact them. ... ,” said Ghartey-Tagoe. “But the theme of every story was how the (child) changed the lives of the (adults).”Like Elijah, Ghartey-Tagoe had no plans of getting wet.They shared Griffin’s boat with another south Charlotte BBBS pair: 11-year-old D.J. House and his mentor, Rob Ackerman.With South End resident Jason Rome at the boat’s helm, the boys enjoyed a 75-minute ride highlighted by first-time views of sailboat racing, the McGuire Nuclear Station, a helicopter resting on its lakefront pad and the Cornelius fireboat shooting water through dual cannons.D.J. came prepared with swim trunks, so back at the dock he and Ackerman hit the water for some swimming and tubing. Elijah and Ghartey-Tagoe laced their hooks with bait and dropped their lines in the 3-4-foot-deep water.“You have to be very quiet so you don’t scare them away,” Elijah said. “I almost caught one over there (on the opposite side of the dock). They hang out over here.”After 30 minutes, Ghartey-Tagoe noticed his line being dragged through the water. He started reeling in a catfish about 14 inches long, and encouraged Elijah to capture it in a net and hoist it out of the water.Their sense of accomplishment was slightly tainted, though. Ghartey-Tagoe was disappointed that he and Ackerman couldn’t loosen the hook from the fish’s mouth without cutting the fishing line.And Elijah was sad that Ghartey-Tagoe released the fish back in the water. He thought he might be able to take it home for dinner.
Friday, Jul. 26, 2013
Big Day at the Lake doles out fun for kids
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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