Building ties that bind

Christian Aulbach and Kyran Seabrook, who were matched through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, spend time together at Frankie’s Fun Park.

Kyran Seabrook is 8. He likes video games and Happy Meals and going to Nana’s house. He doesn’t like bad words or Florida or wearing his seat belt across his chest.

He’s good at math. He’s not so good reading. He’ll start third grade at Belle Hall Elementary next month.

Christian Aulbach is 28. He likes video games, too, and the Charleston RiverDogs and volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Christian and Kyran were matched three months ago through Carolina Youth Development Center.

Kyran was shy at first; now he peppers Christian with questions.

“Where is your dad?”

“In Florida. My parents retired and they moved to Florida.”

“Why did you live in New York?”

“It was fun. I liked all the people. Lots of different people. You could walk everywhere too. You don’t have to drive.”

They were eating chicken tenders and fries at Bojangles on Sunday after a round of arcade games at Frankie’s Fun Park in North Charleston. Christian beat Kyran in Time Crisis 5; Kyran placed ahead of Christian in Snocross. Together, they won 305 tickets, and Christian let Kyran pick out whichever prizes he wanted. Kyran got a pack of Jelly Belly jelly beans and six cherry Airheads.

“Is there costumes for grown ups?”

When Kyran grows up, he wants to be a superhero with superpowers, like the ability to see through walls. When Christian grew up, he wanted to work in law enforcement, like his dad, a former cop in Utica, New York.

Christian studied international criminal justice in college, graduated from the police academy and joined the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.

“I want to be somebody like Batman,” Kyran says.

“You said you wanted to be a cop before.”

“I changed my mind. I don’t want to have a gun. It’s too dangerous. I don’t want to shoot anybody. I don’t want to get hurt because some of these officers died already.”

Sometimes Christian doesn’t want to be an officer either.

Hours earlier Sunday morning and more than 800 miles away, a lone gunman ambushed three police officers in Baton Rouge, 10 days after another gunman targeted five cops in Dallas.

The killings came on the heels of protests roiling several U.S. cities, where demonstrators railed again the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

In a country so divided over race, policing and politics, Christian, who is white, carries a stack of police badge stickers in his pocket. He wants to show kids like Kyran, who is black, “we’re not bad people.”

“It kills me when I go out and talk to these kids about what their parents tell them: ‘If you do something bad, he’s going to come out and get you, he’s going to arrest you’ ... that we’re going to shoot them,” he says. “When I hear little kids talking about that sort of stuff, seeing stuff on the news, you question what you’re doing for so little.”

Christian worries about Kyran when they’re apart. He doesn’t like the downtown Charleston neighborhood where Kyran lives with his mom and younger sister. He doesn’t like the men who loiter outside when he takes Kyran home or the way Kyran clings to him when they walk down the street at night.

Kyran’s mom, Amber Seabrook, worries about her son, too. Amber enrolled Kyran in Big Brothers Big Sisters because she thought he’d benefit from an older male role model. Dad is out of the picture. A “big brother” could teach Kyran things she can’t, like how to play football and basketball, and things she can, like spelling, subtraction and good manners.

Amber’s troubled by the police-involved shootings of black men on the news. When Kyran’s a little older, maybe she’ll talk to him about it. She’ll tell him to follow the rules and obey adults.

She feels safe knowing Kyran is with Christian. And Christian can show Kyran police aren’t all the same.

“Black people do bad stuff,” Kyran tells Christian. “Well, some.

“White people do, too. Everyone, no matter what color your skin is, we all do bad stuff.”

“You don’t.”

“Well, I’m just one person, right? There’s lots of other white people right?”

Christian’s last “little brother” was an older boy. Their relationship didn’t end well. After Christian graduated from the police academy, he noticed the boy’s family stopped returning his calls and started canceling meetings.

Kyran wasn’t fond of his previous match either. He refused to spend time with him. He told Amber “it wasn’t fun.”

But Kyran likes Christian. He also likes YouTube and chocolate milk. At Bojangles, he drinks two bottles with a straw. He doesn’t believe in monsters. He wishes his little sister didn’t have autism. Sometimes, his mom embarrasses him in front of Christian. He’s scared of dogs.

“You’re too smart for being 8 years old, Kyran.”

“I think he’s the coolest police officer,” Kyran says.

Reach Deanna Pan at 843-937-5764.