July 15, 2015

The Hope Quotient: TeamMates Mentoring Program with Jet Linx Private Jets

Private Jets

He’s raising what program founder Dr. Tom Osborne calls “the hope quotient.”

charter-jet-hope-quotient-image“I’m sure you recognize the coach,” said Denny Walker, Jet Linx founder and chairman, introducing Dr. Osborne to the Jet Linx National Operations Center team. Walker brought Osborne to Jet Linx last year to talk about the TeamMates Mentoring Program. A seasoned entrepreneur, successful businessman and mentor for 15 years, Walker notes how the value of the program extends to both mentee and mentor. “When you spend that hour a week with your mentee, you walk out feeling like a million bucks. You feel better about yourself through the gift of giving your time. It builds equity in your heart, not your bank account. Giving truly is ten times better than receiving.”

It might have been Osborne’s legacy as former University of Nebraska-Lincoln head football coach or his three terms as a U.S. Representative that led nearly 30 members of the Jet Linx team into the conference room, but it was Osborne’s passion for mentoring that held them enraptured.

“Mentoring provides a loving person who holds the mentee in an unconditional positive regard,” Osborne declared. “It provides affirmation, someone who believes they have a future. And it provides vision, because most kids don’t realize what they’re capable of. Our mentors improve the hope quotient.”

charter-jet-hope-teammates-tom-nancy-osborneOsborne and his wife Nancy founded the TeamMates Mentoring Program in 1991. “My wife wanted to do something to help kids,” he said. The program began with twenty-two University of Nebraska-Lincoln football players meeting with middle school students in Lincoln Public Schools. By 1997, the program included 160 volunteer mentors in Lincoln. “Today, TeamMates includes 131 chapters serving more than 7,300 students in grades 3 through 12,” said Suzanne Hince, TeamMates Executive Director. The TeamMates group has a winning formula for mentoring associations: forming lasting, high quality matches with a low cost per match.

“All it takes is having someone ask questions, and be open to listening, to provide these kids a roadmap of hope,” Walker said. “Mentors provide a sounding board, a safe place of counsel, and little tips and suggestions that can help a child chart a new course.”

Walker speaks from personal experience. “Denny has been a TeamMates champion for many years,” Hince said with a smile. “He helped to found the TeamMates chapters across Omaha starting in 2000. He has served as a mentor as well as on the Board of Directors.” Walker has personally had half a dozen mentees over the years and admits he “gets attached” to them as they work together in the program. He tends to remain involved long after they graduate the program.

Walker first became involved in TeamMates when he saw that his friend Tom Osborne wanted to expand his Lincoln-based mentoring program to Omaha, he took up the charge. Walker assembled a board and started fundraising. “We started a gala event 15 years ago, with an event for 60 people we put on for a loss,” Walker said. “In 2014, over 1,400 people attended the gala and we raised over $750,000.” Today, there are over 1,400 mentees in the Omaha area benefiting from these fundraising efforts.

“Denny has been instrumental in fundraising for the program and is always recruiting mentors,” Hince continued. “He is currently helping with the expansion into Iowa. Through Denny, Jet Linx has generously donated flights for our major fundraiser each year. This has allowed us to bring in extraordinary talent from across the country and to raise awareness of the need for more mentors.”

In 2014, Jet Linx had the honor of flying Condoleezza Rice home following the event. “She spoke with great passion about democracy and the extraordinary rights we enjoy as U.S. citizens. These rights and freedoms allow us to give back to our community through mentoring,” Walker said.

Because of Walker’s intense passion for the TeamMates program, Jet Linx encourages team members to explore mentoring, offering an hour a week through the company for mentoring sessions. The number of Jet Linx mentors has grown consistently year-over-year as word spreads of the power of the program. “The experience is a powerful relationship builder among team members,” said Walker. “It brings folks from different departments together with a noble common goal.”

The decision to support a mentoring program was an easy one for Walker. “If you walk into a room of 500 successful people and asked how many had a mentor when they were young, you will see a majority of hands go up,” Walker proclaimed. “The truth is, successful people have had a mentor in some capacity in their upbringing: someone who shows a genuine interest in them, with no personal agenda. That’s what TeamMates brings to those youth who need it most.”

This article originally ran in the Spring 2015 issue of SOAR Magazine. Read the rest of the story in SOAR, available online, or visit TeamMates Mentoring Program’s website to learn more about how to support the organization.

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