Trevor Gaskell – A Lasting Legacy

Some conversations really do start something: something that lasts, something big.  Sometimes there’s a moment when a seed of an idea is planted, and it germinates, takes root and grows.  When young police officer Trevor Gaskell was out on a routine patrol in Toronto, he had no idea that a conversation he would have that night was to be one of those moments - a catalyst for something far greater. It was the late 60’s, and Trevor was doing a 3 ½ year stint with the 52nd division of the Metro Toronto Police Department.  This particular evening while on duty with his partner, an officer by the name of Dave Boothby, the usual banter and jokes between the two were not forthcoming.  Dave was unusually quiet and seemed distracted.  In typical style, Trevor asked Dave what was up.   aTorontoPolice1977PlymouthFury-viDave explained that there had been a house fire at the home of his Little Brother from the Big Brothers Big Sisters programme and that he was so worried about the boy because he’d heard that he’d been burnt.  Over the course of the evening, as Trevor and Dave worked the patrol, Dave talked about his mentoring role with Big Brothers and Trevor learned a great deal about the Big Brother -Little Brother relationship as well as the programme itself.  Trevor was impressed by the impact the programme had on one of his police colleagues as well as the potential that relationships like this could have to influence other young lives. Not long after that patrol together, Trevor and Dave’s career pathways took them in different directions and they lost contact with each other. Dave Boothby continued through the ranks eventually becoming the Police Chief of Toronto Metro Police, and Trevor Gaskell moved back to his home country of New Zealand and climbed the ranks to become Sergeant. Trevor never forgot the conversation that night and he held on to a dream that one day he would see the Big Brothers Big Sisters programme established in his country too. Over the years, now permanently based in New Zealand with the police, Trevor made several attempts to drum up interest in the programme but somehow the time just wasn’t right, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters materials Trevor had collected began to gather dust.  Seriously.  In 1996, Trevor quite literally blew the dust off the documents one day and briefed the youth aid officer in his section, Ross Lienert, about the programme with the hope that Ross would also catch the vision and see its potential. It was then; finally, that a number of things started to fall into place and after nearly two decades since Trevor had originally become so inspired about the programme, a series of events brought it all together. Trevor’s briefing with Ross was timely as Ross was invited to a meeting called by the Rotary Club of Nelson who were working on an initiative to help children in the area.  Ross, with fresh knowledge about the world’s oldest mentoring programme, was able to inform the Rotary team about the vision Trevor had to bring it to New Zealand. The idea resonated with everyone who heard about it and the project quickly gathered momentum. Working together, Rotary and the Police went about setting up the organisation and community leaders were recruited, mainly through Trevor’s connections.  Trevor became a Trustee for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nelson Trust, and, after brokering recently announced, government crime prevention funding for the programme, Trevor’s job was then to lead the hiring of a Coordinator.  Not satisfied with the applicants for the role, Trevor quite literally went out and knocked on the door of one potential candidate.  As a result, Dave Marshall, the first Coordinator was hired and the scheme got underway in 1998. Soon, the project began to attract attention from other communities around New Zealand who heard about the great outcomes the programme was achieving. Trevor remained on the Nelson Board for many years, even after his retirement from Police in 2002 and then the National Board was formed in 2004 he became a founding member.  Semi-retired and with a grown family, Trevor felt he now had the time to sign up as a Big Brother – it is highly likely that Dave Boothby, the first Big Brother who Trevor met all those years ago in Toronto, would’ve been so proud of that development if he’d known.
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Big Brother Trevor with his Little Brother Caleb in the School-Based programme.

Trevor’s influence was obvious and his enthusiasm clearly contagious because Ross Lienert, the constable he had briefed about the programme, has also remained actively involved since the programme began and is now the National Board Chair. Today, the organisation that Trevor was so instrumental in starting has grown to the point where it is the largest youth mentoring programme in New Zealand and the sixth largest Big Brothers Big Sisters country operation in the world. The children served by the Big Brothers Big Sisters programme are among New Zealand’s most vulnerable and each year around 900 children and young people, in more than a dozen locations, benefit from the quality mentoring relationships that the programme supports. What began as a conversation back in Canada in the 60’s is now a reputable, national organisation making an impressive difference in communities all over the country.   Sadly, last Saturday (27th February 2016), Trevor passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family.  The Big Brothers Big Sisters team are deeply saddened by this news and send love and condolences to his wife Helen, and his children Emma and Ian, Jamie and Kate, Ashley and Anna, Tim and Lani, Jesse and Amber, and Trevor’s stepchildren and wider family.  Trevor’s children are a real credit to him – warm, engaging, loving and generous adults.2007 National Hui (24) As we reflect on Trevor’s life we’re thankful that Trevor kept that Big Brothers Big Sisters dream alive and that he was the key player in bringing this life-changing mentoring organisation to Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Every day literally hundreds of children and young people, all across the country are spending time with awesome mentors and their lives are being changed for the better.  Each new mentoring relationship that commences between a mentor and a child is the start of something incredible. Trevor – you left a legacy. Thank you for being tenacious and never letting go of your desire to make Big Brothers Big Sisters a reality for this country.  The ongoing impact of mentoring in thousands of people’s lives is immeasurable and will without a doubt, make New Zealand a better place. You’ve started something big Trevor. Thank you!   Dave Marshall, National Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Zealand
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Trevor with National Director (left) and Sean Thomas from the National Board, with Dagmar McGill, Big Brothers Big Sisters International President and CEO at the launch of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Zealand in 2004. LtR: Dave Marshall, Trevor Gaskell, Sean Thomas, Dagmar McGill