“No, I didn’t expect three,” says Callum, 10, who counts Dennis, Dennis’s first Little Brother Simon, now 22, and his second Little, Matt, now 17, as his Bigs, though only Deeley is officially a Big.
The foursome’s passion, based in part on Deeley’s own love of cars and racing, has lead them to collectively build and/or restore three cars -- two Lotus Sevens replicas for Dennis and Simon, and a 1990 Toyota Corolla for Matt.
“I grew up very close to Mosport Raceway,” says Deeley, a tool and die maker who has worked for General Motors for 33 years. “I’ve always been very hooked on car racing.”
He’s also been very hooked on children, and since 1993 with Big Brothers and Sisters of Clarington.
“I was in my mid-30s and my partner and I didn’t have any children,” says Deeley, who also didn’t have any nieces or nephews to spoil. “I felt I was missing something. We kind of figured Big Brothers was the way to go.”
From the start of the match with Simon, who was just about to turn 9, Big gradually but quickly drew his Little into the world of cars and auto racing – slot cars, radio-controlled cars and go karts.
"He just sort of put me right into it," says Simon, now a student at the University of Guelph. “The progression just got bigger and bigger.”
Photo cutline: Dennis Deeley and his Littles, Simon, Callum and Matt, show off one of the Lotus Seven replica sportscar they have build. Fromt left to right, standing Deeley and Matt, seated Callum and Simon.
So big that in 1997 the two started to build a replica Lotus Seven, a classic open two-seater sportscar, from scratch for Deeley.
“I saw a review in The Star about a book, ‘Built Your Own Sportscar.’ I showed that to Simon and I said we could do that and we did,” says Deeley.
"I didn't know the difference between a transmission and a rear axel," says Simon. “As we continued to progress in our car racing and building, I learned a lot.”
It took them about five years working once a week for three to five hours at a time to complete the car. When they were done, about 2002, they started a second one for Simon, who is now confident that with his mechanical skills he could hold his own in any garage.
"All the mistakes were made on Dennis's, so with mine we were perfect,” says the ex-Little, whose car is expected to completed this fall.
Along the way, Simon hit 18 and the official Big Brother relationship ended, but not the friendship. They continued to work on the car.
“When Simon and I closed, I never intended to walk away from Big Brothers because I got so much out of it, watching Simon grow into this incredible man,” says Deeley, who asked for and got a second Little Brother, Matt.
“He was so much like me when I was kid,” he says. “At 12 years old he already knew how to weld” and was just as passionately into auto racing.
“I was pretty happy to have a Big Brother,” says Matt, and that Deeley was into cars and racing was almost a bonus.
“I jumped in and helped finished the car they were working on,” says Matt, who recalls welding the car frame on his first outing with Deeley.
As with Simon, Matt and Deeley raced remote control cars, went to Mosport, watched F1 and “we did other things too, it wasn’t just cars,” he says.
The trio continued to work on Simon’s Lotus and also rebuilt a Corolla, “a nice sporty car,” for Matt. “We found it, she (Matt’s mom) bought it,” Deeley says.
A friendship developed between Matt and Simon, who worked on the cars when he wasn’t away at university. They agree that between them and now with Callum, they never felt that they were sharing Deeley.
"We all just work together to get the same thing," says Matt, who doesn’t see his rela-tionship with Deeley ending. Like Simon, “I’ll probably just keep doing the same thing.”
“When Matt came into the group it pretty much felt like I was the middle brother like Matt is for Callum now,” says Simon, who describes himself as the “seasonal Big Brother,” who will only see Callum during university breaks.
As Matt approaches 18, Deeley decided “that instead of waiting until Matt closed, we would match with Callum first.”
“I’m really intuitive. The first couple of times I was out with Callum we clicked like we had been going out for a long time,” says Deeley. “He seems to enjoy spending time with all of us...Unfortunately he likes NASCAR.”
Callum, who has been matched with Deeley and Matt since the spring, says he was ex-cited to be matched with a Big Brother who is interested in cars. He shrugs off the gentle teasing he receives for liking National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, which hold most of its races on oval tracks instead of the road courses of Formula One and CART.
And Callum says he hasn’t given much thought to the type of car, he and his Bigs might work on for him, though he is partial to a Corvette.
“Callum’s only 10, so I’m not going to worry about Callum for a while,” says Deeley, who has already lined up a new project for his pit crew, another Lotus Seven replica, this time from a kit and for a friend.
Story authored by Young People’s Press