ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — For Maggie Finley, the best part about being a Bona Buddy mentor is the chance to be a positive influence in someone’s life.

“Seeing a child light up and be excited is absolutely amazing,” she said.

Finley, a senior strategic communication major from Long Island, New York, taught her buddy how to hula hoop, watched her experience a nature hike for the first time and shared giggles with her over ice cream in Hickey Dining Hall.

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Another highlight has been receiving a crayon drawing as a thank-you from her buddy.

“It’s not just the kids we’re mentoring who benefit from the experience, but the students who serve as mentors, too,” Finley said.

Finley joined St. Bonaventure University’s Bona Buddies program last year.

“I’d always wanted to do it. Especially after coming back to Bona’s from working at Camp Nashoba North in Maine all summer,” Finley said. “I enjoy the interaction with kids. It lets you be a good role model and just have fun.”

Founded in 1975, Bona Buddies is a youth mentoring program where one-to-one relationships are built between Bona students and local children, ages 5 to 15. The program aims to boost confidence and encourage children to pursue their dreams while providing parents with a network of support and giving volunteers the chance to make a difference in a young person’s life.

There are 73 pairs of children and mentors currently involved with the program. Each week, student mentors spend an hour of free time with their buddy. They help with homework, play games and enjoy healthy snacks of fruits and vegetables.

“That first hour is really just one-on-one time with your buddy,” said Finley. “Some of the children come from big families while others have parents who work a lot, so giving them the chance to be the main focus is important.”

The second hour is devoted to special activities provided by various groups on campus. For example, the Environmental Club hosts a hike along the Allegheny River Valley Trail, Finley said. Other participants include the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, the Richter Recreation Center, the School of Education and various club sports athletes who share tips about each sport. 

This year, to raise money and awareness for Bona Buddies and other service programs, the Franciscan Center for Social Concern will host Giving Tuesday at Bona's, a one-day fundraising event on Dec. 3.

The community is invited to visit www.sbu.edu/GivingTuesdayatBonas now through Tuesday, Dec. 3, to donate and use #GivingTuesdayatBonas on all social media channels to help spread the word.

For Finley, being part of Bona Buddies allows her to make a difference — for a lifetime.

“I want people to know that a gift for Bona Buddies not only provides these kids with great opportunities, but is also doing that for the students who serve as mentors,” she said. “You’re allowing us to be good role models and you’re helping each of us make a huge impact on a child.”

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