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Twenty-year-old Jeremiah Gerlach credits the mentorship of men like Doug McGehee ’81 with altering his life trajectory.

At age 14, Jeremiah Gerlach was struggling. Though the Houston-area native grew up with a father, his dad wasn’t often present, causing a father-shaped hole in his life. “I had a lot going on,” Gerlach recalled. “I was often angry and confused and felt lost.”

That’s when he heard about Outdoor Adventures, a Christian nonprofit that mentors teenage boys who lack father figures and teaches life skills through camps and other outdoor events. After attending one event with a friend, Gerlach was hooked. “I wanted to know why all these guys cared about me so much,” he said. “I wanted to know, ‘Is it real?’” He soon discovered the answer was “yes” as he found mentors in many of the leaders and volunteers, including Doug McGehee ’81. “It’s like having a part-time dad,” Gerlach said. “These guys have shown me how to handle myself in adult situations and what it means to be a man.”

Now, at age 20, Gerlach works as a machinist in the oil and gas industry while serving at the camps for kids whose shoes he was once in. “I used to think I needed a miracle to change my situation,” he said. “But God led me where I needed to be. It’s not a mistake that I showed up for that first meeting, kept coming back or met Doug and everyone else. Now, instead of feeling angry or lost, I have a purpose and am motivated to help others.”

Stories like Gerlach’s are ones Doug and his wife, Natalie ’82, have been part of for a decade through their ministries helping fatherless families. Whether they’re supporting single moms or mentoring teenage boys, the McGehees have made it their mission to help fill in the gaps for fatherless families and provide the support, guidance and love they need to reach their full potential.

Filling a Need

Beyond helping the McGehees launch successful careers in the energy industry, Texas A&M University instilled in them a deep commitment to service. Around 10 years ago, that blossomed into a passion for helping fatherless families when Natalie met single moms at their church in Houston and learned of the challenges they faced. “So many of them had multiple children, worked full-time jobs and took online classes at night,” she explained. “They were so strong and impressive, but they had experienced a lot of hurt and faced many challenges.”

“Most nonprofits provide a service, but men like Doug aren’t just helping people; they’re living life with people.”
- Allan Castro

Moved by their stories, she launched Overflow in 2013, a ministry to connect single moms and provide support and encouragement through events, including a yearly conference that attracted participants from 23 states and seven countries. The more she interacted with single moms in the ministry, the more one need became apparent: male influences in the lives of their teenage sons.

“These moms were taking great care of their boys, but many told me, ‘I can’t teach him how to be a man,’” Natalie recalled.

As she and Doug explored the statistics, they discovered that 18.4 million U.S. children live in a fatherless home—a number that encompasses those whose dad has passed away and those whose fathers are not consistently present in their lives—and that fatherless children are more likely to experience poverty, drop out of school or go to prison.

When the couple learned of Outdoor Adventures and its focus on addressing these issues, Doug began volunteering, and they offered their ranch in Somerville, Texas, for the nonprofit’s camps. But they still felt something was missing. “The outdoor opportunities were great, but what was really needed was day-to-day mentoring,” Doug explained.

A Meaningful Mission

To dive deeper into this mentorship focus, the McGehees helped launch Trailblazer Ministries in 2022. Like Outdoor Adventures, the nonprofit supports fatherless young men and holds outdoor events but places a greater emphasis on practical, emotional and spiritual needs beyond the great outdoors by focusing on individualized mentorship.

Allan Castro found fatherly role models through Trailblazer Ministries, exemplifying the program's emphasis on mentorship for fatherless young men.

Currently serving more than 40 boys between ages 14 and 19, the program pairs participants with mentors who meet with them to build relationships, provide guidance as they navigate school, finances and jobs, and develop a plan to help them grow.

For some, Doug has provided career advice. For others, he’s supported them on the path to college. And some, like Allan Castro, just need encouragement from a father figure. A 20-year-old seminary student and youth pastor, Castro first connected with the program five years ago with a desire to volunteer. But in meeting Doug and other leaders, he found the fatherly role models he had been missing since his parents split when he was 5. “I love Doug to death. We still meet for lunch once a month,” Castro said. “Most nonprofits provide a service, but men like Doug aren’t just helping people; they’re living life with people.”

In another example of their heart for fatherless families, the McGehees created a gift to support single-parent students through Texas A&M’s Women’s Resource Center, one of the multiple gifts they’ve established for Aggies. Though Natalie stepped down from Overflow in 2022, their gift is a way to continue providing single moms and their children with the boost they need for success. “People can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they don’t have boots,” Natalie said. “Sometimes, they need someone to bring them the boots and help them along the way. And doing that has given us such purpose and joy.”

Do you know an Aggie who is selflessly serving? Tell us about itthey could be featured in a future issue!

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