REAL LIFE STORIES
Each of us has shared an important connection with someone who broadened our horizons and brought a little magic into our lives.
It was the person who taught you to throw that perfect spiral, or sat in the front row to cheer you on, even when it was embarrassing. These are the little moments that Big Brothers and Big Sisters experience every day.
These real life stories are just a few of the ways Big Brothers Big Sisters is changing lives and communities forever.
BIG SISTER BETHANY
LITTLE SISTER ROBYN
A "Little" Becomes a "Big" and Makes a Big Difference!
If you want to know how much of an impact volunteering as a Big Sister can have on a girl’s life, just ask Little Sister Robyn. Or you could ask her Big Sister Bethany who was once a Little Sister herself.
Bethany remembers being 13, in a single-parent family — and not liking school. She remembers how much she needed someone to talk to!
That’s when Big Sister Veronica entered her life. Before long, Bethany’s self-esteem improved dramatically … and so did her grades. That’s why, when Bethany was in college, she knew she wanted to repay the kindness and guidance Veronica had given her.
No wonder she hit it off so well with 13-year-old Robyn. She knew just how Robyn felt! Before long Bethany and Robyn were finding common interests, doing fun activities, and creating a wonderful friendship.
Knowing Bethany has meant a big boost to Robyn’s self-confidence. And it’s helped her school work, too. So it’s no surprise that when Robyn was recognized for her academic accomplishments, she invited Bethany to the awards banquet. After all, who better to share her big moment with … than her Big Sister!
BIG BROTHER TOM
LITTLE BROTHER DAVID
BIG BROTHER OF THE YEAR
A Journey of Self-Discovery
Turning an “F” student into an “A” student can take more than hitting the books. Sometimes it takes hitting the road — to learn about who you are and believe in what you can become.
For Little Brother David, the eight years he’s known Big Brother Tom have been a journey of self-discovery. In school, he’s gone from bad grades and poor self-esteem to understanding that, with hard work, he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.
Through eight years of friendship, he’s joined Tom and his wife for family trips and vacations. And there was one particular trip, along the way, that helped him identify with his own heritage.
That was the visit they made to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where David, who is three-eighths Native American, forged a powerful connection to his roots. Says Tom, “It was good for David to see what Native Americans can achieve. My wife and I are starting to explore Native American college scholarships so David will have an affordable choice of colleges.”
Says David, “My Big Brother has changed me from a little boy into a man.”
BIG BROTHER TOM
LITTLE BROTHER NICHOLAS
Similar pasts and shared fun inspire a Big and Little to grow
Growing up in Texas, Big Brother Tom learned what mentoring was all about from his father. Dad wasn't only a role model for his own children — he watched out for the boys next door and made them feel like part of the family.
When Tom first met Little Brother Nicholas, he was surprised by all the things they had in common. (Big Brothers Big Sisters strives to find matches with similar interests.) Amazingly, both had been adopted and were growing up in interracial families. For Nicholas, who felt “lost” as a child, that shared experience really meant a lot. “Tom knew exactly what it was like to be different from everyone else and he was able to provide me with a role model that I could look up to,” Nicholas remembers.
Today, however, Tom jokes that they’ve become more and more different over time. Through 10 years of doing good work like planting trees and fundraising, doing sports together and just “hanging out,” Nicholas has grown up … and Tom smiles and says he has become “more immature.” It must be the fun of hanging out with a young person!
It’s clear Tom and Nicholas’ friendship has grown strong, and both Big and Little are better for it. Says Tom, “I consider our bond, our shared perspective, and our mutual openness to be the high point of our relationship. It is probably one of the high points of my life.” And as for Nicholas, he has this to say. “Tom always will be my main source of inspiration and guiding light.”
BIG BROTHER DAVID
LITTLE BROTHER FLAVIO
Stepping Up to the Plate
“When I was 14,” says David, “my parents divorced. My sister was living with friends and I was pretty much alone. I wished then that I had something in my life like this.”
What’s “this”? It’s the special mentoring relationship that grown-up David found four years ago with Flavio, then 12. Like any new match, they approached it with a little bit of hesitation, but David soon learned “you don’t have to be perfect. You just need to be there.”
Being there often means finding common interests, and for David and Flavio that’s been easy — they share a passion for outdoor sports, especially baseball. They’ve had fun playing catch and going to batting practice together, and David has enjoyed watching Flavio’s skills improve and his love of the game grow.
They also like going to Red Sox games together, usually at Boston’s Fenway Park. But this summer they got to do something really special. Through the “Step Up to the Plate” promotion, sponsored by Holiday Inn hotels, the “Official Hotel of Major League Baseball,” David and Flavio were able to take a trip to Pittsburgh to see Boston’s hometown hero David Ortiz participate in the official “Home Run Derby.” What a thrill for both of them and an experience Flavio will never forget.
Step Up to the Plate is one of many actions being taken this year to help Big Brothers Big Sisters recruit more male mentors. Across the nation, twice as many women as men volunteer, which means at any given moment there are usually more boys and young men waiting for matches than there are girls and young women. Right now we’re looking for men throughout the country to step up to the plate by volunteering just one hour per week. So if you or someone you know has the ability to be a mentor to a child, please volunteer now.
“This has been an awesome experience,” says David of the time he spends with Flavio. “We’re talking about a negligible amount of time. We talk on the phone a couple of times each week and get together for an hour or two doing things that we both enjoy. And the truth is that the return is WAY bigger than the investment.”
BIG SISTER ANGELA
LITTLE SISTER AMBER
A Committed Role Model
“I would never have been able to succeed in life, school, and my career without the support of someone older, wiser and more experienced than myself,” says Big Sister Angela. “I rose on the shoulders of others, and I wanted to give a young person that same kind of boost.”
Angela has gone far in her life, thanks to mentors she had. As a public defender, she’s also seen what can happen to girls who don’t have good guidance or strong role models in their lives.
That’s why she’s committed to helping her Little Sister Amber succeed. And thanks to knowing Angela, Amber wants to go to college, make smart choices and be successful in her own life. Knowing how much her Big Sister Angela believes in her makes her dreams seem possible!
But Amber doesn’t plan on becoming an attorney like Angela. She wants to be a dramatist, writer or poet. In fact, she’s written a poem that describes how she feels about their powerful friendship:
I’ll always love her because she’s been there
Through thick and thin
And I’m proud to call her
My sister, my family, my friend
BIG BROTHER PAT
LITTLE BROTHER DERRICK
How Do You Find the Time?
“If only I had the time.” That’s what so many potential volunteers think to themselves. Life is so busy … how do you clear an hour a week for mentoring?
For Big Brother Pat, he found time by just including Little Brother Derrick in the things he already liked to do. Pat liked sports, and so did Derrick, so that gave them a common ground. “We will chase any sort of ball around any sort of field or court,” says Pat.
Today, Pat says the time he spends with Derrick is “the best part of my week.” And for Derrick, knowing Pat has helped him grow up strong and self-assured. In the time they’ve known each other, Derrick has grown 10 inches. He’s grades have improved, and he’s looking ahead to college. He’s confident enough to stand up for what he believes in. Most important, Pat has seen Derrick “mature from a boy who maybe didn’t know his place… to a leader, whether it is on the basketball court or within his group of friends.”
Five years ago, when they first started playing sports together, Pat would let Derrick win. Today, they’re both winners. The day Pat found the time to volunteer, he found a friend — and Derrick found a mentor he could laugh with, learn from and depend on.
BIG BROTHER SYLVESTER
LITTLE BROTHER JEREMY
BIG BROTHER OF THE YEAR
Learning to be a Man
When Sylvester Fulton speaks of mentoring, he uses the word "obligation." Of course, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy every moment he spends with Jeremy, his Little Brother for the last six years. What it does mean, however, can be summed up in these words. "For those to whom much is given ... much is required."
What Sylvester was given, as a boy, was the role model of a strong father who worked hard, served his community and took care of him. He knows he’s become the man he is today because of the example his father set. From him, Sylvester says, "I learned to be a man ... and I am obligated to help boys become men."
Becoming a man, he feels, starts with having a strong male role model. "Too many African American boys endure negative maturation," Sylvester says, "because of a lack of mentoring." That’s one reason he’s answered the call to volunteer time and time again. That includes not only the six wonderful years he’s spent as Jeremy’s Big Brother but also many other special opportunities along the way, such as playing Santa Claus at the community after school program.
The time spent with Sylvester has given Jeremy countless skills and confidence. "He taught me life's lessons - the importance of making good grades in school and how a good education is the key to a successful life in this world. By spending time with my mentor, I have improved my social skills. Now, I am less shy and I try to make new friends with students at my school and in my community." Remembering the lessons he learned as a boy, Sylvester says this of Jeremy: "It is my deepest hope that Jeremy, in turn, will invest in others."
"If Mr. Fulton could be cloned, our agency would no longer suffer from a shortage of African-American male mentors," says Kimberly Davis, Program Director.