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Big Brother John and Little Brother Leondre

Big Brother John and Little Brother Leondre

Every Friday night for years, Big Brother John sat on a bleacher, cheering on his Little Brother Leondre. John never missed one of Leondre’s football games, and supported him off the field as well. He even joined Leondre’s school’s “Quarterback Club,” which is designed for players’ dads.

“Leondre grew up without his father, as did I,” John says. “I grew up poor in a home without a father or any prominent male figure to help me navigate the path to manhood. I wanted to give Leondre that much needed, positive male figure.”

A positive male figure was exactly what Little Brother Leondre’s mom was looking for when she signed him up to be a Little. “I was worried about raising him by myself. As a woman, I knew I could raise Leondre to be a good person,” she says. “I didn’t know how to teach him to be a good man.”

“When you look into the eyes of a young boy and tell him that you are going to do something, you have to follow through.”

– Big Brother John

Leondre says that their similar upbringings allowed him to trust John. He was instantly able to see him as a role model for his behavior and ambitions. “John and I grew up exactly alike,” Leondre says.  They both grew up without a father, raised by single mom, and often caring for younger brothers and sisters. The challenges John faced were more than circumstances to overcome—they helped him become a loving, ambitious person, Leondre says, and he looks up to him for that.

When Leondre was first matched with John, more than eight years ago, he was struggling at school and was a C student. Big Brother John encouraged him to take school more seriously and impressed upon him that he needed to not only pursue athletic achievement but also academic competence and educational goals. “He has motivated me to attend college and get an education and have a positive future and help my family,” Leondre says.

According to Big Brother John, Leondre has grown to be a role model for other students in the classroom and other players on the field. Leondre even says one day he would like to “pay it forward” by becoming a Big Brother himself.

Now, Leondre is in his second semester of college at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio. He is going to school on an athletic scholarship, hoping to become a social worker. He is still in contact with his Big Brother, John. “He asked me if I would still be his Big Brother once he graduated high school,” John recalls. “I replied, ‘Yes! I want to be there during your college years and…see you graduate college. I want to talk to you about your girlfriends, your wife, your kids. I will always be here for you.’”

 


partner-logo-gen2gen_logoGeneration to Generation
In partnership with Encore.org and Generation to Generation, we are working on recruiting new Bigs across the nation. Generation to Generation is a campaign that believes in the power of connecting older adults to kids who need their support. For more stories about mentors over 50, or to pledge to get involved as a mentor yourself, visit generationtogeneration.org.


Big Sister Dawn and Little Brother Phillip

Big Sister Dawn and Little Brother Phillip

Big Sister Dawn raised her two sons and called herself the “tomboy mom.” She taught her boys the traditionally male and female roles in their household, and felt comfortable raising boys. When her sons moved out and that “empty nest” feeling crept in, she volunteered to be a Big Sister.  She asked for a Little Brother.

Philip’s mom was looking for someone to be a role model for her son, and to be there for him when she couldn’t, due to working the night shift. At first, Little Brother Philip admits he felt “iffy” about having a Big Sister instead of a Big Brother. “But when she took me out for the first time, that all changed,” Phillip says.

Dawn was into sports, so she and Phillip began to bond over playing tennis. For Philip’s first birthday during their match, Dawn got him a baseball glove, and they started going to games, hoping to catch a foul ball.

“When my mom signed me up for BBBS, I thought I would want a guy Big, but now, I’d rather have Dawn.”

– Little Brother Philip

Cooking together has been another of Dawn and Philip’s favorite activities in the almost four years they have been matched. Philip had always been a big help in the kitchen with his mother, but he started chiming in and teaching her what he’d learned while cooking with Dawn. “All of a sudden, Philip was jumping in and adding little things that Dawn showed him,” Philip’s mom says. “And he even made all his own potatoes one time when we were grilling out. ‘This is how Dawn and I do it, Mom, let me do it for you,’” she says.

Big Sister Dawn makes time to see her Little Brother, even when she’s having a tough week. Dawn has a disease called sarcoidosis, for which she must get a chemotherapy shot each week. She intentionally plans her treatment early in the week so she can be recovered enough to spend time with Philip later in the week. Even when she’s not feeling well, she tries to see her Little Brother. “She is an amazing, strong woman for being in her medical situation and then taking on a 9- 10-year-old and being as active,” Philip’s mom says.

When Little Brother Philip’s mom enrolled her son as a Little in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, she was hoping to find someone to teach him how to be a man. Instead, she got Dawn, a role model who has taught Philip about focus, commitment, and strength — who happens to be a Big Sister and a “tomboy mom.”

Editor’s note: BBBSA received permission from the family to name Dawn’s diagnoses in this story.

 


partner-logo-gen2gen_logoGeneration to Generation
In partnership with Encore.org and Generation to Generation, we are working on recruiting new Bigs across the nation. Generation to Generation is a campaign that believes in the power of connecting older adults to kids who need their support. For more stories about mentors over 50, or to pledge to get involved as a mentor yourself, visit generationtogeneration.org.


Big Brother Nick and Little Brother Evan

Big Brother Nick and Little Brother Evan

Growing up an only child of a single mom can be lonely, so Little Brother Evan was more than ready for camaraderie and adventure when he was matched with Big Brother Nick, then an MIT student, nine years ago. “Nick and I play sports together sometimes, and he inspires me to work hard to be like him,” Evan says. Through hockey, Nick showed Evan how to be a good teammate, be confident, and challenge himself.

When Little Brother Evan and Big Brother Nick were first matched, Nick was attending MIT and playing on the MIT hockey team. Little Brother Evan and his single mom became Nick’s biggest fans. They attended every home game and most away games. Evan became an extension of the team. He assisted with the scoreboard, volunteered to take down the rink at the end of the season, and even skated with the team during practice.

“He inspires me to work hard to be like him,” Nick says. After playing for six years, mostly with Nick and his friends, Evan tried out for his high school hockey team and became a varsity hockey player.

As an only child of a single mom, Evan has had a limited support system. He and his mom are close, but being a family of two is not always easy. “For any child who represents exactly half of the family unit, there is for the child an imperceptible and constant sense of vulnerability and unease. It’s the feeling of being almost alone in the world, or one adult away from having to fend for oneself,” Evan’s mom says. “Nick, by being a stable and consistent part of Evan’s life, has calmed this sense of vulnerability.”

“While teaching Evan, I have become a more confident, patient, and empathetic man. When the time comes, I know the experience will make me a better father.”

– Big Brother Nick

Throughout his childhood, Evan lacked self-confidence and struggled to make friends. Diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a language disability, Evan was often frustrated with himself and uncomfortable in social situations. Nick says that for a couple of years, Evan would repeat the same phrases again and again, phrases that didn’t fit with the context of the conversation. “These are known as verbal tics, which are a hallmark of Tourette’s Syndrome,” Nick says. “Later, he would frequently say ‘I wish I didn’t have a learning disability’ or ‘I wish I wasn’t born like this.’”

Playing hockey has helped Evan both with his self-confidence and with his ability to make friends, and Nick has been there to support him. “I encouraged him to fight through these struggles, to embrace who he is, and to focus on what he can control,” Nick says.  He also found stories about successful people who had persevered through similar adversity and used these to try to inspire Evan. “Nick makes me feel good about myself,” Evan says.

Now, Evan is an honors student in high school. He is diligent about his schoolwork and committed to achieving his goals. And he has learned coping skills and self-acceptance from his mom and Big Brother. “I have not heard him repeat the verbal tics or complain about his learning disabilities in over a year now,” Nick says.

Just by stepping up to become a Big Brother, Nick doubled the number of important adults in Evan’s life. But he did even more than that for Evan, Evan’s mom says. “Nick, through introducing Evan to his larger group of friends, provided many good role models for Evan – men and women who were undeterred by hard work, who excelled at school and athletics, and who longed to change the world for the better. So it wasn’t just Nick modeling this behavior, but Nick’s large group of friends, too, whom Evan got to know,” Evan’s mom says. “All of them illustrating for Evan what is possible in life when you are determined and focused and committed.”

Editor’s note: BBBSA received permission from the family to name Evan’s diagnoses in this story.

Big Sister Katy and Little Sister Trina

Big Sister Katy and Little Sister Trina

Little Sister Trina and her two brothers were adopted when Trina was 3. She had been in and out of foster care for her whole life. She was quiet and withdrawn.

Three years after her adoption, Trina’s mom brought her to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon so Trina could be matched with a Big Sister.

“We were unsure of getting a Big for her, as we didn’t know if they would stay committed to Trina,” her mom says. “Knowing her pain of being tossed back and forth between birth mom and stranger, she needed a stable and loving Big.”

Big Sister Katy was matched with Little Sister Trina, who was 6 at the time. “The first time I saw Katy was at Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors,” Trina says. “I’m pretty sure I got chocolate chip mint.”

“Being Trina’s Big Sister has been a privilege. I hope to encourage Trina to do good things and push her to do better with the opportunities in her life. I know she does the same for me, without even knowing it.”

– Big Sister Katy

Katy had considered becoming a Big for a long time before she officially volunteered. She served on the Board of BBBS of Central Oregon and thought about what it would be like to mentor a child herself. She held off because she was nervous. She asked herself dozens of anxious questions. “Was I good enough? How could I change a life? What could I offer a Little Sister? Did I have the time? Would she like me?”

When she met Trina for the first time at that ice cream shop, though, those questions disappeared. “I realized I didn’t need the answers to all those questions,” Katy says. “Rather, I made a commitment to focus my energy on helping someone else in whatever way I could, to be present for her.”

In the past four years, Little Sister Trina and Big Sister Katy have spent countless hours baking cookies, doing crafts, walking Katy’s dog, reading, and talking. Being able to open up to Katy has helped Trina gain self-confidence. “Trina was shy and reserved over the first part of our match, very different from her outgoing, spunky self today,” Katy says. “Over time I’ve seen her open up, talk to strangers, order her own dinner at a restaurant, try new activities she wouldn’t [try] before, even begin to like school more.”

When Little Sister Trina talks about Katy, it’s clear that she values her Big Sister’s consistency as much as her foster mom does. “Katy is so amazing because she doesn’t ever give up on being my Big Sister even though she is so busy and works so much,” she says. “I want her to be my Big Sister as long as I can have her. As long as I know her.”

Big Sister Michelle and Little Sister Parasia

Big Sister Michelle and Little Sister Parasia

When Little Sister Parasia was 7, she was standing in her family’s living room when she was narrowly missed by something coming through the wall – a stray bullet. “She still talks about how scared she was that day,” Big Sister Michelle says.

A member of Parasia’s immediate family was incarcerated for gang activity, and there was no way for her life to avoid being touched by violence. Little Sister Parasia’s mom realized the odds were against her daughter.

She knew Parasia was seeing some scary things in her neighborhood and that she would need help making sure her daughter beat the odds. She enrolled Parasia as a Little Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands seven years ago. “As a young single mother of four children, it was difficult for me to have one-on-one time with each of my children,” she says.

At the same time, Little Sister Parasia’s mom was realizing she needed a Big for her daughter, Big Sister Michelle was realizing she needed a way to connect to her community and give back. She had served on committees and hosted fundraisers, but something was still missing. “My work didn’t feel personal,” she says. “It felt disconnected from the people and causes I most wanted to help.”

“Every time someone asks me who she is, I say with confidence and pride, ‘That’s my sister.’”

– Little Sister Parasia

To connect with Parasia, Michelle has taken her to do fun things, like going horseback riding, seeing the “Bodies” exhibit at an Omaha museum, and going out for ice cream on a cold, snowy day, and also to do service projects, like working in food pantries. “We build a friendship and love forged on fun and service that carried us through the difficult times,” Michelle says.

About four years ago, Parasia’s family was in the process of buying a Habitat for Humanity home. When Parasia’s family was away, the house they were renting caught on fire. They lost everything, including their family dog.

Michelle stepped up. “She did so much for us when our house caught fire and fell down,” Parasia says.

For helping Parasia’s family and for her service as a Habitat volunteer, Habitat for Humanity of Omaha named her their 2015 Power Woman of the Year. “Michelle was the ringleader in helping coordinate all of the many donations to help my family start over,” Parasia’s mom says.

Through those tough times after the fire and during Parasia’s transition to adolescence, Big Sister Michelle stayed committed to their match. “She has, at times, like any teenager, been moody, unresponsive, and stubborn. She has had failing grades and has gotten into trouble at school.” To get through those times, Michelle says she worked as a team with Parasia’s mom to support and guide Parasia.

Now, Little Sister Parasia is a thriving high school student. “Her grades are B’s and above, she has a good relationship with her teachers, and she truly understands the importance of her education and of staying out of trouble,” Michelle says. “College is her goal.”

Big Brother Tohib and Little Brother Makhari

Big Brother Tohib and Little Brother Makhari

As a football coach, Big Brother Tohib saw that boys truly need positive adult role models. Growing up, he had caring parents who pushed him to reach his potential. “They never settled for ‘good,’” he says. “I always had to work harder.” With his parents’ encouragement, Tohib went to school for finance and earned his Master’s degree. He wanted to give back and help kids who might not have such positive adults in their lives, so he became a Big Brother. He was matched with Little Brother Makhari.

Makhari’s mom wanted to enroll her son as a Little Brother because he needed a role model. “He needed a stable man in his life. Makhari has a relationship with his dad, but due to substance abuse problems, his father is in and out of his life. It has never been stable,” she says. Tohib has been consistent and committed throughout their relationship, calling to check on Makhari in between visits. Makhari says he acts differently because he knows Tohib cares about his grades and his behavior. “I have someone who is looking at the things I am doing and making sure I do the right thing so I can be a good man when I grow up,” Makhari says.

Matched for more than eight years, Tohib and Makhari connected right away. They went to Patriots games and Red Sox games with tickets from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State, and they bonded over sports.

After spending some time with his Little Brother, Big Brother Tohib noticed that he had never learned any money skills. As an accountant, he knew he could teach Little Brother Makhari about the value of a dollar. They started by opening up a bank account for Makhari. “We talked about deposits, withdrawals, keeping a ledger, and saving money,” Tohib says. “It is Makhari’s money in his account. When he earns money, I take him to the bank to deposit it. We talk about interest and how the money can grow if he keeps it in there.”

“I know I cannot slack on my schoolwork because Tohib is going to check in on me.”
– Little Brother Makhari

Their relationship has lasted eight years, but it has not been without its challenges. At one point, Makhari started hanging out with friends who were skipping school. He stopped focusing on homework, and started avoiding Tohib. Tohib tried to help, and ended up frustrated. They took a few months off from scheduling outings together.

Makhari’s school attendance and grades got worse. His mom asked BBBSOS to try to get the relationship back on track. “When our current Match Support Specialist called and asked if I could start seeing Makhari again, I was hesitant,” Tohib says. “Our Match Support Specialist, Heather, told me that she had talked to Makhari and he was ready to make a commitment to our match again. Since then, the match has been going great.”

Last October, the match participated in a walkathon, a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Tohib challenged Makhari to run with him the whole way. “There were a few times when I thought I was going to fall down. Tohib was encouraging the entire time,” Makhari says. “He told me we could go as fast or slow as I wanted. He said if I needed a break, we would take one. He wanted to encourage me but not let me quit. We finished the race running.”

Their relationship is like that walkathon. Makhari says when they took a break and recommitted to their match, he learned that his Big Brother would not give up on him. “Even when I wanted to give up for a while, he did not. We came back together and are even closer now.”

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President Obama has issued a proclamation designating January National Mentoring Month.  In the proclamation, he emphasized that mentoring a young person does more than help that one young person; he says mentoring has effects that ripple through communities and strengthen our whole country.

“As a Nation, we are stronger when every individual has the opportunity to contribute to our American story. By working to give each person a better chance at success, we can unlock their potential and empower them to serve others in the same way.”

To read the full Presidential Proclamation, click here.

National Mentoring Month Key Dates:

January 12, 2017 – I Am A Mentor Day

January 16, 2017 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

January 17, 2017 – International Mentoring Day

January 19, 2017 – #ThankYourMentor Day

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Meet Markees. He’s a former Little from Los Angeles who snagged his first movie role at 15 and became a star at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Little Brother Markees stars in “Morris from America,” which won awards for acting and screenwriting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

When Markees was in sixth grade, he went through a tough time academically. For extra credit, he took a role in the school play. His Big Brother, Matt, saw a stage presence that needed to be nurtured, so they created videos that showed off Markees’ charm and playfulness. They posted them to YouTube, and those videos caught the attention of writer/director Chad Hartigan.

Now, Little Brother Markees, 17, is considering acting as his career. He loved being on set and watching the crew work hard to produce the film.

So what started as a silly video project with his Big Brother might now be his life’s work. “I didn’t even plan on putting it out,” said Big Brother Matt, a professor of economics who also does some comedy work. “It was just going to be for us and friends, but it turned out so good.”

Movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8HY-6F4Y_I

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With the final run in San Antonio this September, the Corner Store Country Run wrapped up its third year as a major fundraising event in many markets across the country. The Country Run has been a match activity, a team-building exercise for agency staff and volunteers, and a big fundraiser for the network.

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Note: The Corner Store Country Run also benefits other children’s charities; these graphics reflect only the amount raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Country Run 2016

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To learn more visit www.cornerstorerun.com.

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In between catching passes on Sundays and practicing throughout the week, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been one of many celebrities who continues to make time for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

On Giving Tuesday, Brown (number 84) took to social media to push our #BIGgift campaign and kicked off the day by donating $8,400.

Five days later, in his game against the New York Giants, Brown wore a pair of custom white and purple BBBS cleats during the NFL’s #MyCauseMyCleats weekend.

Brown has played a key role in raising awareness of the BBBS brand and enlisting the help of many others to give this holiday season.

He hasn’t been the only celebrity to jump in and help out Big Brothers Big Sisters, either.

Singer Letoya Luckett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, and singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson also posted on their social media accounts on Giving Tuesday.

Country singer-songwriter Brad Paisley also worked with BBBSA to create a PSA. In it, he asks people to support Big Brothers Big Sisters, because he says he believes in the power of mentoring. In the video, he says, “My life was enriched by the kindness and support of a caring adult who gave me the gift of time.”

Actor Ryan Potter and NBC Nightly News anchor Kate Snow wrapped up Giving Tuesday by showing their support of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Celebrities have helped BBBS put a nice bow on a really big 2016, leading to a 2017 where we can match more Littles with caring adults who can also give the gift of time.