In 2002, when David signed up to become a Big Brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, there was a lot on his mind. Did he have the time? Would he be a good Big Brother? Could an out gay man be accepted as a mentor? Would his Little Brother or the child’s family be uncomfortable with having a mentor who was gay? All these questions swirled in his head. What was not on his mind then was attending the Super Bowl. Back in February, Big Brother David and Little Brother Wesley, who is now 25, were in the stands to watch Nick Foles and the Eagles take on Tom Brady and the Patriots. They won tickets because David submitted an essay to the #CreateChangeContest, and Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, chose David and Wesley’s story as one of the winners. So, they headed to Minnesota together to celebrate their match and take in the Super Bowl.
Each match between a Big and a Little is special. Each has its first match meeting, its own obstacles to overcome, and ultimately its own outcomes in the lives changed. Each match has its own story, some of which you will read here. Our match stories are called “Big Impacts” because they celebrate not just the impact of the Big on the Little, but also the impact of the match on the families, the impact of the Little on the Big, and the impact of the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency that supported everyone along the way.
Alana’s father was raising her alone, when he signed Alana up to become a Little Sister. He thought she needed a positive female role model to help her navigate the rough waters of childhood . When they met Big Sister Sam, Alana and her father thought she was the perfect match, and through her passion and support for Alana, she proved it.
After a childhood where he felt like his mentoring relationships had strings attached, Big Brother Tom set out to show a child they didn’t have to do something exceptional for an adult to care for them. “I wanted to show a child like me that they are deserving of a positive relationship without the pressure of trying to prove oneself,” he says. Tom was matched with Little Brother Samir, and the two hit it off immediately. They both love dogs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and sports. Though Tom became a Big because he wanted to show a child they didn’t have do exceptional things for an adult to care for them, he realized that Little Samir was truly exceptional.
Shyae’s mom signed her up to be a Little because she noticed a negative change in Shyae’s attitude in school and at home. She felt her daughter needed someone to listen to her, give her guidance, and help boost her confidence. Luckily, around this time, a graduate student named Lauren had completed her student teaching and decided she could spend her extra time being a Big Sister. When the two were matched, Lauren and Shyae felt an instant connection. Shyae felt so comfortable around Lauren that she opted to call her “Sissy.” Through match activities, Lauren made an effort to give Shyae new experiences, help her overcome her fears, and explore her interests. Soon Shyae gained the confidence to become an artist, a stylist, an entrepreneur, and so much more.
Two years before Little Brother Zyshonne was born, his brother died. Though Zyshonne never met him, he still mourned and agonized over the loss once he was able to comprehend what happened. He still has eight siblings, but he lives with only two of them and his grandparents. His other six brothers and sisters were separated and placed in foster homes. The loss of his brother and the displacement of his family led Zyshonne to build a wall of shyness to keep people from getting close to him. He struggled with his grades and social skills, so when Zyshonne was 10, his grandfather turned to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Growing up without a father or mother for any length of time is one of the hardest things a child can experience. When Little Sister Rustie was 2, her mother decided she no longer wanted to raise her. When Rustie got older, her father was incarcerated. After a stint with caregivers, Rustie went to live with her grandparents. She struggled to make positive choices and had trouble fitting in with her peers at school. After her tough early childhood, it looked like Rustie would need a Big Sister who was nothing short of a superhero. But after a match activity where Big Sister Elena armed Rustie with a cape, she became her own superhero.
Police Chief Scott grew up with two quality mentors — his parents. His father taught Scott and his friends to fish and hunt, and his mom encouraged them to empathize with others. The lessons had lasting effects on Scott, but modeling mentorship may have been the biggest. As he went through college and started his career as a beat cop, he sought out mentors for himself and eventually decided to become one. He became a Big Brother to Little Brother Marcus and saw firsthand the impact that an officer could have by mentoring a youth. After being named police chief, he made mentoring a priority for his department and saw award-winning results.
After retiring as a school principal, Verna still felt compelled to make a difference in someone’s life, so she became a Big Sister. She was matched with Little Sister Sarah, who was 6. Like many kids, Sarah was struggling with bullies, attendance, reading, and making friends. Though Verna had worked with many kids before, she quickly realized that this relationship would be different and, ultimately, the most special.
Dre’Von grew up surrounded by girls, with an older sister and two younger sisters, so his mother decided to enroll him as a Little Brother. She felt Dre’Von could use a positive male model in the form of a Big Brother, and he was matched with Tyler. Over the next three years, they have visited wolves at the zoo, seen the brightest neon jerseys ever at an NFL game, and enjoyed a perfect fall evening at an MLB game. From the activities they do together to the dedication to the match, Tyler has proven to be exactly the guy Dre’Von needed in his life.
One of the first things Annie did when she moved to Salt Lake City was look into volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. As she was going through her trainings and waiting to meet her Little Sister, Annie started learning things about her new home. One of the things she learned was that Salt Lake City has a large refugee population. During her interview with Big Brothers Big Sisters staff, they asked if she would be interested in being matched with a refugee youth. “It was as if the person interviewing me looked right into my soul and saw something that I didn’t know about myself yet,” Annie says. “I immediately knew that I would prefer to mentor a refugee youth.” Annie was matched with Little Sister Sabina, who was a 6-year-old Nepali refugee. The match was intended to be life-changing for Sabina, but it ended up changing both their lives.