‘It’s price each dime’: Calgarian fundraises for tenting journey for boys with out fathers

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As a young boy, Tom Barthel craved a father figure. He said his own father was a successful businessman who was not at home much.

“I seemed to have needed a lot of male guidance and it wasn’t there, not in the capacity I needed and I grew up with a void,” Barthel said.

He got lost, became addicted to drugs and involved in crime. But years later he sobered up and began to discover his purpose.

Tom Bartel.

Jill Croteau/Global News

“I can’t walk past a young man who might look lost and confused and might need an older man’s hand, I can’t,” Barthel said.

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He mentor boys who don’t have a constant male presence in their lives.

“Some of the guys I hang out with have dads in prison, some of the dads are away and some only see them once a year,” Barthel said.

He volunteers his free time with them, taking them on road trips and camping adventures geared towards young men.

Tom on a road trip with the boys he’s mentoring.

Courtesy Tom Barthel

“I’m not leaving because I’m donating my time, I’m leaving because I have the time of my life and I can’t make it without it.”

He raised money for gas and hotels for these camping experiences. Supporters help pay for gas bills and camp registration fees.

“I can’t do this alone. I don’t have the money for super expensive trips. To get to these summer camps, we also need donated vehicles,” Barthel said.

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“But the trips we remember were worth every penny.”

For over a decade he has positively influenced the lives of brothers Braden and Jackson Meyers. He’s known the boys since they were little.

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Tom with Jackson and Braden.

Courtesy Tom Barthel

Jackson is now 15 years old and looks up to Barthel.

“He’s like a big brother. We feel like we can talk to him about anything and he helped me with confidence,” Jackson said. “I admire him for getting out of drugs and crime and now teaching young men like us not to take the path and learn from our mistakes.”

Jackson and Braden Meyers.

Jill Croteau/Global News

Older brother Braden, 17, said he admires what Barthel is doing for her and other boys without fathers.

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“It was tough not having our dad around, and it was tough for mom — she’s raising us on her own,” Braden said. “Tom taught us to respect ourselves and others and to treat women the right way they should be treated.”

Her mother, Lacey Meyers, sees their connection.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility raising two sons alone and I’ve enjoyed it, but there are certain things they need to learn from another man,” Lacey said. “It meant everything to me. I can rest easy and Tom will be a part of our lives forever.

“He’s always in our corner.”

She said Barthel felt like family.

Lacey Meyers.

Jill Croteau/Global News

“I remember Jackson asking me when he was little, ‘Mom, who’s the coolest person you know?’ I said, ‘My sister’. Immediately he said, ‘Tom is the coolest person I know.’ It was so adorable. You get an uncle relationship with him,” Lacey said.

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Lacey, Tom, Braden and Jackson when the boys were younger.

Courtesy Tom Barthel

Barthel is already planning her next adventure.

“I started a gofundme because I want to pick up some of these and stop at the amusement parks on my way to Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend. It’s a camp in California. That is my goal for 2023,” said Barthel.

He has rebuilt his relationship with his own father, who is proud of what his son has achieved.

“Me and my father have been best friends for 15 years and are inseparable,” Barthel said.

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