When Big Sister Gretchen first met Little Sister Brianna, she met a shy, smart, curious girl who often got into trouble. Brianna got upset quickly, threw fits, and fought with other kids. Spending time at school and eventually outside of school with Big Sister Gretchen was a big help, and Brianna began to gain confidence and focus.
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.
When Little Brother Brandon was struggling with his identity and realizing he was gay, he wanted to tell his Big Brother Emilio. He was scared at first, but he says Emilio simply accepted him. “From my perspective, that’s my job as a Big Brother, just to listen and be supportive,” Emilio says.
Little Sister Mykayla’s mom wanted to have a relationship with her daughter like Rory and Lorelai from “Gilmore Girls.” The mom and daughter were already so close in age that they were best friends, but throughout Mykayla’s childhood, her mother was sick. She was diagnosed with cancer when Mykayla was just a toddler, and she dealt with other severe illnesses and injuries. Mykayla’s mom enrolled Mykayla as a Little Sister when she was 10 years old. She wanted her daughter to have someone to talk to besides her, someone to be a role model. What she got was all that and more in Big Sister Shannon.
After more than 10 years in a refugee camp, Little Brother Ashis’ parents got to the United States and immediately wanted to give their son opportunities and a bright future. They enrolled Ashis as a Little through BBBS of Utah, and he was soon matched with Big Brother Paul. The match was exactly what they were looking for. “Paul’s influence has made Ashis want to achieve more,” Ashis’ parents say. “Ashis now has goals, in school and in basketball.”
When Little Sister Esmeralda learned she was failing the third grade, she turned to her Big Sister for help. When they first started reading together, she could barely read the menu. When she pulled the fortune from a fortune cookie and began to read it aloud to Chelsea, she stopped in the middle because she got to a word she didn’t know, too embarrassed to keep trying. Together, they began working on Esmeralda’s reading and building her confidence. After a year of reading books each time they met, Esmeralda passed third grade.
At their first match meeting, Big Brother Harrison and Little Brother Michael’s match support specialist and Michael’s mom left them alone to get to know one another. “We played basketball and talked for what must have been two hours,” Harrison says. “It got to the point that [Michael’s mom] said she would go home and I could drop him off when we got done, since we were having so much fun.” The fun and connection haven’t stopped for almost four years.
Ajaea was 5 when her mother died suddenly. With her father incarcerated, she and her sister went to live with their grandmother. Losing her mom left Ajaea feeling lost and scared. She would barely leave her grandmother’s side. She was matched with Big Sister Shari, and she began to share her feelings and cope with her grief. “She told me I could always talk to her about anything,” Ajaea says, “and I started to do just that.”
Elijah’s grandmother prayed that a mentor would come into her grandson’s life. With both his mom and dad out of the picture, he didn’t know how to deal with the extraordinary loss in his life. Instead, he acted out in school. He was even expelled from kindergarten. His grandmother was at a loss as to what to do next, and then he was matched with Big Brother Jamie.
When Big Sister Ann first volunteered to become a Big, she envisioned being matched with a Little Sister. But the waiting list for Big Brothers is often much longer than the waiting list for Big Sisters, so she was matched through BBBS of Middle Tennessee with Little Brother Darius, a confident and positive 11-year-old who plans to go to Vanderbilt University.
In the middle of last season, Little Brother Aden’s basketball coach quit the team. Without a coach, they wouldn’t be able to play the rest of the season, so Big Brother Kevin stepped up and became the new coach. In the process, he showed his Little Brother what true commitment means.