NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Fishing, hunting, tossing around the football in the back yard - these are the activities most boys take for granted as valuable lessons learned from their fathers. For boys who aren't as fortunate to have a father present in their life, these are the things they long for.
Every year, Gambit selects one male and one female as 'New Orleanian of the Year.' This individual is one who is making a significant difference in the community through charitable efforts. Bivian "Sonny" Lee III is the 2017 winner for his efforts through his organization Son of a Saint .
Today, Sonny is one of two New Orleanians recognized for their outstanding efforts. However, growing up he struggled with anger, confidence issues and lack of direction, something he feels was caused by the loss of his dad at the young age of 3.
"There's a lot of ways that my father's death impacted me," said Lee. "When a boy is going through his adolescent years, being able to talk to a male who has gone through those things is something that I didn't really have or feel confident in talking about."
The organization is in honor of Lee's father, former Saints Cornerback Bivian Lee Jr. Lee, who unexpectedly died of an enlarged heart at the age of 36.
"My dad was really active in the community, my mom's students that are grown up now still tell me what a huge heart he had, which is ironic because he died of an enlarged heart.
One thing Sonny has in common with his dad is a huge heart. His organization has grown exponentially since its inception in 2011. Mentors of Son of a Saint help over 50 young boys who may have been born without a father, have a father in prison, or lost a father to violence and death. The organization helps them to deal with the woes of adolescence.
"Really we're just there for them. If they need to talk to us, we get calls at 2 in the morning from our boys or their moms, and we're there for them," explained Lee. "It could just be coordinating opportunities for them. It could be getting a ride. If they need a pair of jeans and we have someone that wants to pick out a pair of jeans, so we pick them up from school and we'll go get them a pair of jeans or a pair of shoes, or help them with their homework or tutoring."
Devante' and Devyn Robertson are two young boys who have been with Sonny and his team for four years now. Their father is in prison, but thanks to Sonny they don't go without a father-figure during those precious developmental years.
Devante', 13, wants to be a football player some day, inspired by Sonny and his father.
"I don't have a father in my life, so he took me and treated me like he was my father, and throughout those days he helped me with my work," Devante said. "He said if I had better school work and better grades, and an education that means I will be a smart young man, and grow up to be in a big world."
Sonny might be the son of a Saint - but to these boys, he's a saint on Earth.