Big Brother Jesse and Little Brother Tristan
In the movies, when spring turns to summer, children hold lemonade stands. For pocket change, you get a cup of lemonade and the satisfaction of having contributed to someone’s camp fund or candy money. But in Springfield, Missouri, 9-year-old Tristan held a lemonade stand that was for something with a much bigger impact: his adoption by his foster mother.
Two years ago, Little Brother Tristan was matched with his Big Brother, Jesse. Tristan had been in and out of foster care, he had seen unconscionable acts of violence and endured neglect and maltreatment that no one should have to experience.
When Tristan was first enrolled as a Little, his match support specialist, Chelsea, says he was slow to trust and didn’t get along with his teachers. Given his history of trauma, she said, this was to be expected. “I think the ultimate goal for Tristan’s match with Jesse is to show him that even with all of the bad experiences he has gone through, there are still good people in the world that care about him that he can look up to and be comfortable around.”
In the two years that Tristan has been matched with his Big Brother, Tristan has made significant progress. “The mending of some trust issues has also helped his self-esteem, relationship with others, and will hopefully put Tristan on the right track for a healthier future,” Chelsea says.
Big Brother Jesse keeps his interaction with Tristan simple. They have gone to the library, gotten ice cream, walked around Bass Pro Shops, gone bowling and played video games. But being a reliable presence is often enough to make a difference. It may not seem like a huge transformation, Chelsea says, “but for Tristan to know that there are people out there that are good and worth trusting is a big deal.”
I think the ultimate goal for Tristan’s match with Jesse is to show him that even with all of the bad experiences he has gone through, there are still good people in the world that care about him that he can look up to and be comfortable around.
-Big Brothers Big Sisters Match Support Specialist Chelsea
A key lesson that Tristan has learned through his relationship with his Big Brother is that there are caring adults who will help when they can. When their match support specialist was trying to schedule a routine meeting, Tristan’s foster mom mentioned to Chelsea that Tristan was raising money to pay for his own adoption. He was having a bake sale, she said, and a lemonade stand. Perhaps other BBBS of the Ozarks staff would want to join her to support their Little, Chelsea thought. They checked with the family and sent the information to local news outlets. “By that afternoon, almost every media outlet (television and paper) had interviewed Donnie and Tristan,” Chelsea said. “And you could say that their story had gone ‘locally viral’ by that evening.”
Little Brother Tristan’s crowdfunding page shows a goal of $5,000. The page shows that so far, they have raised over $24,000. The page gives an extremely detailed history of the trauma Tristan has endured. Chelsea, who is not only Tristan and Jesse’s match support specialist but also the agency’s Director of Programs, says that she hopes people read his whole story. “I think the world sometimes tries to cover up or tiptoe around the child abuse topic because it’s uncomfortable, but just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’s not happening,” she says. “I think Tristan and Donnie have inspired some child abuse awareness and hopefully awareness can inspire prevention.”
This is a different sort of big impact story. It’s about the impact that is possible when a group of people in the community rally around a child and do what they can. In this case, it was the routine, caring work of a match support specialist, the commitment and constancy of a Big Brother, the extra effort of the BBBS of the Ozarks staff, and the attention of the media, not to mention the guidance and safety of a foster parent, that made this lemonade stand have a Big Impact.