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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – CBS4 News is committed to bringing you stories about why mentoring matters and now we have the story of someone who was looking to make a difference in the world and wound up gaining a new, extended family.

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CBS4’s Rick Folbaum first met Dan and Jesse as the pair bonded while playing a video game. They banter back and forth just like siblings talking sports.

When Rick asked Jesse what it’s like having someone like Dan in his life, Jesse replied, “Kind of like a big brother or sister.”

Except Dan and Jesse aren’t related. Dan is Jesse’s mentor and has been for a decade.

“He’s not only special to me, he’s special to everyone around him,” explained Dan. “He’s an incredibly thoughtful individual.

Wanda Mazo had just moved to South Florida from New York. She was a single mom with twin sons Ben and Jesse.  Jesse has epilepsy and developmental challenges.

Dan had just moved here from Milwaukee. It was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and he made himself a resolution; become a volunteer and make a difference.

“I was on the computer and I saw an invite for this organization and something kicked me in the tush.  I met with this nice lady and she said, ‘I have to vet you, but I have this perfect family.’”

The organization was Chai Lifeline, a group offering services for Jewish kids with chronic conditions. For Wanda, Dan was a godsend.

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“They would do guy things that I wasn’t interested in doing.  So they did guy things and in the early stages, that’s what it was to me,” said Wanda.

Through the years, it’s become much more and lasted much longer than even Dan imagined it would.

“We’re family,” Dan explained. “It’s just the bottom line.”

Now Dan has a family of his own, a wife and a baby son. They have shared milestones together and now that Jesse’s brother Ben is at college, Dan and Jesse get more one on one time.

“I’d say he’s kind of fun sometimes.  We make jokes and laugh,” said Jesse. He also told Rick he likes spending time with him. “Yea, why not?”

As for mom Wanda, she says it’s very difficult because there’s so much uncertainty.

Jesse’s epilepsy and developmental disabilities pose challenges.  But he’s been an award winning student, something he’s very proud of and he’s currently working towards a special diploma at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School. His mom says Dan has been an amazing influence.

“As Dan said, Jesse’s a very caring person and I truly attribute a lot of that to Dan and seeing what a wonderful person he is, a giving person and I know that’s rubbed off and I’m very grateful for that,” said Wanda.

“It really is incredible. I’m an individual who tries to find a deeper meaning in whatever one does in life, or crosses your path,” explained Dan. “It’s just something I really believe in.”

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