Julie with Liam at Liam's Wedding

By Paul O'Rourke

“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be,” Rita F. Pierson (US educator and child advocate).

Chaplain Julie Toombs was one such child champion; 18 months of tutoring 20 years ago had had a profound impact on one little boy growing up a few doors away in Ulverstone.

Julie, then working as a teacher’s aide, was surprised mid last year when a Beaurepaires truck pulled into her driveway. She wondered if she had forgotten she had ordered new tyres.

The driver, Liam Triffett, had arrived to hand deliver an invitation to his November wedding. For Liam, Julie was the kind and generous neighbour who had opened her home and heart to a little boy struggling to read and write.

“He told me he wouldn’t have finished school, got a job and met his now wife May if I hadn’t taught him to read and write,” Julie said.

Liam remembers the modest home as a safe and welcoming space with a beautiful garden and a bottomless biscuit jar where, for 18 months, he fell in love with words instead of fearing them.

“Her place was like a second home, Liam said.

“I had everything except my own room.

“I remember the garden, and feeling happy. She would place my picture in a Christmas star on top of the tree.”

Julie remembers a shy six-year-old who would visit three times a week for about an hour after his mother asked if Julie would be willing to coach him.

Tutoring continued until the family moved, although Julie maintained contact with Liam’s mum via Facebook.

Julie said she was surprised, and a tad concerned, when Liam, then 25, sent her a friend request. She reluctantly agreed, wary of a connection after almost 20 years.

“A few weeks later he asked for my address, which I foolishly gave him.

“Then some time later he arrived at the door with an invitation to their wedding in Longford in November last year.

“I was overwhelmed when he came to the door and told me what the tutoring had meant to him.

“I couldn’t believe the impact of mentoring on his life, and that he would want me there on his special day.

“It’s such a God thing.

“I’m sure there are miracles we’re a part of without knowing it.”

Julie said it was a sobering reminder of the power of connection and relationship through intentional mentoring.

“It was my wife May who wisely suggested we invite Julie when I shared about the difference she made in my life.

“We (May and I) unexpectedly turned up at her house a second time a few months after the wedding with my mother and sister to say thank you and share memories.”

Julie continues to be a quiet, comforting and faithful friend to hundreds of other children through her chaplaincy role at East Devonport Primary School and as a volunteer student mentor. She has also worked as a chaplain at Miandetta Primary School and volunteer mentor with New Mornings in Ulverstone.

Liam works as a tyre technician with Tyre Right in Launceston where he lives with May.

Devonport Chaplaincy is impacting hundreds of students and young adults each week through individual student, workplace and driver mentoring.

Volunteer mentors donate an hour to 90 minutes a week to be a force for good in the lives of those they support.

To join Julie as a volunteer mentor, contact Devonport Chaplaincy on 6417 3175.