South Burlington Resident Bob Wheel (center) received the 2016 Vermont Mentor of the Year Award from Comcast Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs John Sutich (right) at Mobius’ Mentoring Celebration at the Statehouse on Thursday, January 14.  Bob is a volunteer mentor through Spectrum Youth and Family Services, and was joined at the event by his teen mentee Ryan Wallace (left). PHOTO: Ken Signorello. 

Wheel Named 2016 Mentor of the Year

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Thursday January 21, 2016

On Thursday, January 14, 2016, South Burlington resident Bob Wheel, a mentor through Spectrum Youth and Family Services, received the 2016 Vermont Mentor of the Year Award from Comcast. He was honored, alongside his teen mentee Ryan Wallace, at Mobius’ 2016 Mentoring Celebration at the Vermont Statehouse, an annual event held each year in recognition of National Mentoring Month.

Wheel was one of 10 finalists for the Mentor of the Year award, and was nominated by Spectrum Mentoring Coordinator Lee Ann Donner, who recognized Wheel for his exceptional dedication.

Bob Wheel is probably the best thing that ever happened to Ryan, his mentee. He has helped Ryan develop confidence and set goals. Early on in their mentoring relationship, the positive impact Bob had on his mentee was documented …“The mentee is very connected to his mentor. This relationship has helped him with his self-esteem and friendship skills. It means a great deal to him. This relationship has really accented his strengths and increased sense of self. He looks up to his mentor and respects him; he is learning many things about life, relationships and how to be in the world through this connection.”

Because Bob believes in Ryan, Ryan has learned to approach hard work with enthusiasm, and has achieved some of his goals. Bob got Ryan involved in a championship winning baseball team, and raised and provided the funds to get him on that team. He taught Ryan to drive a boat, and helped him prepare for his test, resulting in Ryan successfully getting his license to drive a boat. Now they are working on driving a car. 

In addition to spending time with Ryan enjoying baseball and snowboarding, Bob also shares his dedication to community service. As an example, Bob took Ryan to his local fire department for the annual remembrance ceremony, and Bob and Ryan shopped for and prepared dinner for the firefighters. As a bonus, Ryan got to ride along on the ladder truck on a call that night! Thanks to Bob, Ryan has an interest in, and a respect for public service.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Ryan, and Bob has guided him through some tough situations. Bob has helped Ryan learn from mistakes, and move forward with purpose. Bob has helped him assess his academic potential and interest, and continues to help him navigate the school system in order to prepare to pursue a career. Bob’s generosity goes far beyond his relationship with Ryan. He has taken on Ryan’s best friend, who also needed a mentor. Seeing a need at Spectrum, Bob has volunteered to be the unofficial driving instructor for Spectrum Youth and Family Services. In addition to working with Ryan, he is helping other teens at Spectrum learn to drive, using his car so that they can get in the practice hours they need to get their licenses.

Bob’s compassion is endless, as is his energy for helping a teen find his way through the daunting challenges of becoming an adult. Bob Wheel is an extraordinary mentor!

A South Burlington resident for 34 years, Bob Wheel has been active in the community in many ways. He served for nearly 30 years on the South Burlington Fire Department from 1983 to 2012, retiring from his position as assistant chief in 2012. Wheel is currently employed at Global Foundries after retiring from IBM following a 31 year career.

Wheel is honored to receive the award, but was quick to emphasize his own appreciation for his mentee, Ryan. “The award was entitled “Mentor of The Year”, but I assure you that our success belongs equally to both of us, awarding it to the “Mentoring Pair Of The Year” would be accurate in my opinion!   Ryan’s become a pretty important part of our family.  One quote that I like is this (author unknown) “I became a mentor because I wanted to give, the thing I didn’t realize is how much I’d get.”  Pretty much sums it up.  I became a mentor in order to pay it forward, and thank someone that mentored me and influenced my life.  So ask yourself the question, ‘Who Mentored You’?”

About Mobius: Now in its fourth year as Vermont’s Mentoring Partnership, Mobius supports more than 140 adult-to-youth mentoring program sites that serve 2,300 mentor pairs throughout the state. In addition to spearheading the Vermont Mentoring Month campaign, Mobius also provides grant funding to mentoring programs (around $340,000 for the 2015-2016 grant year), offers technical support to program staff, maintains an online program directory and referral system for volunteers, manages a quality-based program management database, and works with programs to lead other statewide mentoring initiatives. The theme of the 2016 National Mentoring Month campaign is “Mentor In Real Life,” which encourages mentoring supporters and mentors to talk about the real-life benefits of mentoring. For more information about Mobius, and mentoring programs and initiatives in Vermont, visit