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'He's becoming more outgoing'

March 29, 2001

'He's becoming more outgoing'



Asked if he was shy or outgoing when he met his Big Brother, Joe Hege gives a contemplative lick to his spoon, savoring the last remnants of chocolate pudding.

"A little bit of both," the 13-year-old says, looking for a nod of agreement from Gary Lukacs, his "Big."

"He's becoming more outgoing," says Lukacs, 43, a veterinarian who lives in the Shippensburg, Pa., area.

In the three years since they have been matched, the pair has done a lot together.

They've gone fishing and hiking, and sometimes they shoot hoops. They traveled to The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. Joe tagged along a few times when Lukacs had to tend to ailing farm animals.

They also stay on the move with mountain bikes - "Mine's bouncier than his," Joe brags - and four-wheeled contraptions.

"He likes the go-karts," Lukacs says. Joe also dreams of being a race-car driver.

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When they get together about every two weeks, they also like to eat - especially Chinese food and pizza - and go shopping.

Joe says he was excited when he was matched with Lukacs through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, Pa. He says being in the program gives him "something fun to do."

Lukacs was involved in a Big Brothers Big Sisters program in 1985 in another area.

"I like working with kids," he says, adding that he worked at a camp for underprivileged children while in veterinary school.

Lukacs is helping Joe prepare to be an usher in his mother's wedding. He says its been nice hearing Joe express excitement about having a stepfather.

"It's rewarding from both ends. (It's) good for your ego ... to watch them develop," Lukacs says.

Joe, a sixth-grader at James Buchanan Middle School in Mercersburg, Pa., taps his temple while thinking about why the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is a good one.

"You can help someone," he says, aiming a smile at Lukacs.

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