You might think that Dave Hensley, cofounder of Bar K Dog Bar, was talking about dogs. And you wouldn’t be wrong to think that — he’s a self-confessed dog lover. But he’s not talking about puppies — he’s talking about his Little Brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters KC.
Kansas City is the move
Dave Hensley grew up in the Kansas City area and attended K-State for college. After a stint in Denver and Seattle for a few years, he returned to Kansas City to open the business that he and a friend had been dreaming about for quite a while.
After settling down in KC and getting Bar K Dog Bar up and running, Dave realized he had a choice to make.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters was one of those things that I had known about for a long time — whenever I was presented with the opportunity, my response had always been, ‘I’ll do that someday, but not right now,’” said Dave. “When I moved back to KC, I needed to decide what kind of person I wanted to be.”
“I knew that I wanted to make a difference and give back to my community. After I thought about it for a while, I decided it was time to stop dipping my toes in the water and finally jump in with both feet.”
Soon after, Dave attended an info session and was matched with Ethan, his new Little Brother, on November 30, 2018.
‘There’s a beautiful world right outside your door’
Dave is the first to admit that the first time he met his Little Brother was a little awkward for everyone.
“It’s always a little awkward meeting someone like that for the first time, but it was also really special at the same time,” said Dave. “When I got to Ethan’s house for the official teaming, his family actually invited me to sit down and join them for dinner. A lot of my family doesn’t live in Missouri, so it was really nice to have that moment to kick-off our match.”
Dave is a huge fan of dogs, so it should come as no surprise that Ethan also loves dogs. He’s even considering becoming a vet!
“Because we’re such big dog-lovers, you can often find us hanging out at Bar K,” said Dave. “He loves it because it’s basically a huge playground full of dogs, and I love it because it’s a perfect way for us to spend some quality time together.”
When they were matched, Dave learned pretty quickly that Ethan loved video games. Initially, Dave was worried that they wouldn’t be able to bond over video games — he doesn’t really play any himself.
What Dave initially perceived as a barrier to their friendship, however, quickly turned into an opportunity for them to learn from one another.
“As he’s told me about the video games he likes to play, I’ve learned a lot — some of these games are really beautifully designed and create some incredible worlds,” said Dave. “On the other side, it’s also been a great opportunity for me to show him that there’s a beautiful world right outside his door, too — and we get to explore it together!”
The future is big
As a cofounder of Bar K, Dave is in an especially unique position to help Ethan explore a potential career as a veterinarian. Later this year, Ethan will have the opportunity to shadow and observe a local veterinarian for an entire day!
“I look at him, and I just think, wow. He is just an amazing kid. Once he builds up his confidence, he really has the potential to do anything he wants — the possibilities are endless,” said Dave. “Being a Big is really just an opportunity to make a difference at a critical time in a young person’s life, and I’m so honored to have the opportunity to play a small part in Ethan’s story.”
Ethan’s mom, Sarah, says it’s more than just a small part.
“I can’t say enough good things about Dave — I am totally blown away by how much he has exceeded my expectations,” said Sarah. “He is an incredible human being and really cares for Ethan. Dave is truly is a blessing to Ethan and myself.”
While they’ve only been matched for 8 short months, Dave knows he’s already learned a lot from Ethan.
“You don’t have to talk to someone that’s old and wise to learn something new. You can learn a lot from young people, too,” said Dave. “You get to see the world through their eyes — you learn a lot about yourself, too.”
Looking to the future, there’s plenty in store for Dave and Ethan. In a little over a month, Ethan will start his freshman year of high school.
“The transition to high school might be a little difficult, but I’m looking forward to seeing him spread his wings a little bit as he tries new things and figures out what he’s really interested in,” said Dave. “I can’t wait!”
“When I think about my time with Ethan, it really makes me wonder: If every person just took one person under their wing — if everyone said yes to being a friend to just one young person that needed it — what kind of world would we live in? I think it would be radically different.”