Written by: Hannah Miller
Forever friends are often made in TeamMates. This is true for Tom McAloon and Evan, a match from Grand Island, Nebraska.
Tom learned about the program in one of the most unlikely places, getting his haircut. His barber told him he’d make a great mentor in TeamMates.
“I said ‘I’m too old! I’ll be 84 when he graduates high school.’ Well, I talked to the coordinator, and she said ‘Tom. That’s ridiculous.’ so I signed up.”
The pair first met when Evan was in 7th grade. At 79-years-old, Tom was nervous about meeting Evan for the first time, but his program coordinator helped ease his anxiety. She told him that Evan is the kind of kid that puts a stop to bullying by sticking up for kids in the school. This touched Tom’s heart.
“Tom is very wise. Having someone who’s been through so much, I’m able to learn and grow from what he’s experienced and put it in my own world,” he said.
It wasn’t until July 2021 that they would go through one of life’s challenges together. Tom was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive throat cancer.
“My first thought was ‘Oh no, I am going to die before Evan graduates.’” Tom said thoughtfully. He explained he’s not afraid of death, but he is afraid to leave Evan behind.
After surgery and radiation, Tom is now looking toward a healthy future, but the months of treatment and recovery took a toll on his energy, but even then, he continued to stay connected with Evan. They were able to meet virtually as Tom gained back his strength.
“The bond I’ve had with Tom is not something I would’ve imagined I’d have, especially with an older adult, and this bond has improved my mental health and me in general as a person,” Evan said.
Tom and Evan’s story isn’t over, and they said they’re excited to see what the future holds for them.