LACOMBE – A 40-year friendship between Andy Pawlyk and Chris Selathamby started with personal heartbreak for Pawlyk.
In the mid-1970s, Pawlyk and his family realized they would not be able to conceive a child of their own, which left a void in their lives. That void led them to approach what was then known as Red Deer Big Brothers.
The agency, now known as Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Lacombe and District, matched Pawlyk with Selathamby.
“It took awhile for the mother to approve of letting go of her son to be with me, but on Oct. 18, 1978, it became final,” Pawlyk said. “We were officially together.”
The pair, who were recently recognized for their 40-year match, initially took an interest in photography.
“I was into photography, and so he and I were taking pictures at City Hall Park,” Pawlyk said.
Since then, their tie has grown into a lasting friendship that has joined two families together.
“It brought Chris, his mom and his family closer and included in our family. We were all one,” he said.
That connection has included Selathamby being named Pawlyk’s adopted daughter’s godfather, as well as a push by both families to help each other out over the course of four decades.
“As time went by, we came to the conclusion that all of us never really texted each other — we always spoke. By talking to each other on the phone, it helped us pick up on each other’s feelings,” Pawlyk said.
Mentorship has not only given Pawlyk a life-long friend, it has also given him a will to continue to support Lacombe Big Brothers-Big Sisters.
“My theory is that if you help a child stay off the streets, you have done your job. I know all those people that mentor today try hard and they all do a good job,” he said, adding that in his experience, a child always will love someone they can look up to.
“One hour minimum a week is all they ask. When I started, it was two hours. Chris and I broke that rule,” he said.
Pawlyk said having their friendship recognized was an honour, and he is currently researching whether their 40-year match is a record.
“It is nice to know that we are still matched, even though we are 51 and 71,” he said.