Bright News

A lifelong relationship, thanks to The Friendship Club

The Friendship Club has had a life-changing effect on Cheyenne Perrino.

After-school activities that combined education with fun. Developing friendships. Help with homework. Nature walks. Summer activities.

cheyenne barb and dena
Cheyenne Perrino (middle) with Barbara Thomas, a Board member and longtime mentor and friend of Perrino, and Bright Futures for Youth Associate Director Dena Malakian.

And, for Perrino, a lifelong relationship.

All are part of The Friendship Club.

“I remember always being excited to go (to the) Friendship Club,” says Perrino, who joined the organization as a sixth-grader and remained through eighth grade. “The best thing was that all of the activities were also extremely educational and helped hone or start a skill set.”

The Friendship Club also connected her with Barbara Thomas, a current Bright Futures for Youth board member, who Perrino refers to as “grandma.”

Thomas has “been part of my life for more than half of it,” says Perrino, who graduated from Bitney College Preparatory School in 2012. “I am so incredibly grateful for her, and can’t describe all the experiences and emotions that we’ve shared together.”

The most difficult was the tragic death of Perrino’s mother, who was killed in a car collision while driving Perrino and her twin brother to the bus stop on Feb. 25, 2009. Perrino and her twin brother were injured in the single-vehicle crash.

Barbara and her late-husband Ed took care of Perrino and her brother for a while after the death of their mother.

“They helped and pushed me, and still do, in so many directions that I hadn’t quite pictured,” Perrino says. “They were so encouraging … always listening to what I had to say or what I was feeling that day. They always pushed me if I was doubting myself. They always saw the stronger part of me that I could not.”

Like encouraging Perrino to attend college. She enrolled at Southern Oregon University, where she met her future husband.

Cheyenne and Nick Perrino have been together for nine years. Nick, a member of the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and Cheyenne will soon be moving to South Korea, where they will be expecting their first baby in January.

“If it weren’t for (Barbara and Ed Thomas) and their absolute thoughtfulness, I’m not quite sure where I would be right now,” Perrino says.

And it all started at The Friendship Club.

“Please, don’t stop volunteering your time and energy and devotion to these girls,” she says to those who support the organization.

“Some might not realize it in the moment, but I know they will be able to look back and have fond and incredible memories of all the people they’ve had the opportunity to meet, all the activities they were able to participate in, and even help credit to finishing high school and going to college. They’ll have better futures, lives and memories. They’ll be so thankful.”