He taught me early on that one competes with oneself, not others, and to compete without making excuses. Throughout my life, when I face challenges, I think of Coach Barnes, and his advice to “run faster.”
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.
After spending years in foster care, Little Sister Jennifer began living with her mom again. It was a tough transition, and her mom knew Jennifer needed someone else in her corner. She signed her up to become a Little Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona, and that decision changed the entire trajectory of Jennifer’s life.
When Big Brother Randall told Little Brother Henry he would be graduating with his MBA, Henry gave him a big high five and asked if he could attend. Randall immediately said yes. “I knew this was a moment that would be a giant seed in his mind, and if he could see the graduation and I could give him a high five there, it would be a huge positive influence in his life,” Randall says. Randall’s plan worked perfectly. He gave Henry a high-five after the ceremony, and Henry told him that he wanted to graduate high school and college — just like his Big Brother.
Big Sister Portsha grew up with a very busy single mother. Her mom didn’t really have time to craft or read, or to be silly with Portsha and try to touch the tip of her nose with her tongue, as Portsha liked doing. She was devoted to working and providing for Portsha and didn’t have a lot of spare time. Because of this, Portsha felt she was missing a mentor in her life, so she made mentors for herself out of pop culture icons. “My mentors and role models were the powerful and brave girls and women I would read about in books, like Scout in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or see in movies, like Disney’s ‘Mulan,’” Portsha says. “And of course, Oprah. Everybody loves Oprah.” By the time she was an adult herself, she knew she wanted to be a real-life mentor for someone, and signing up to be a Big Sister gave her the perfect opportunity.
When Little Brother Marcus was just 3 years old, his aunt took full custody of him because neither of his parents were in a place to raise him. One of his parents was struggling with opioid addiction and the other was not a consistent presence. Marcus has lived with his aunt and four female cousins since then, and he has struggled with dealing with his anger. Marcus often found himself called down to the school office for an outburst in the classroom or on the playground. When he was in first grade, his family received a letter in the mail about a program called “Big Brothers Big Sisters,” and Marcus’s life changed forever.
From a young age, Little Sister Sky felt her life spinning out of control. She grew up in a house with drug use and physical abuse, witnessed her house raided by police, and at one point was physically abused herself. It was then she knew that she couldn’t live there anymore. She moved in with a friend before finding a stable guardian in a different part of town. She found even more stability when she was matched with her Big Sister Jess.
At the age of 2, Little Brother Baylee lost his eyesight. As he grew up, his mother wanted a mentor for him because his dad wasn’t involved in his life, but she wasn’t sure if there would be a Big Brother who would be willing to be matched with a Little who is blind. Big Brother Al didn’t balk at being matched with a blind Little Brother, and they have been now been matched for nearly eight years.
Little Sister Starr was matched with Big Sister Marilyn when she was 5 years old. At the time, she was being raised by her mother and her grandmother, and her mom was struggling with health and addiction issues. It would have been easy for Starr to grow up with a limited view of what was possible for her, but spending time with Marilyn helped her avoid that. “I have looked at Marilyn’s house and thought ‘I can have a house like this,’” Starr says. “I can have a bedroom like this. I don’t have to live in public housing anymore.” With Marilyn by her side, Starr knows her potential is unlimited.
When Hurricane Harvey was about to hit Houston, Big Brother Andrew called his Little Brother Javier’s mom to make sure they had the supplies they needed. A single mom working constantly to make ends meet, she hadn’t yet had a chance to go to the store to buy things like extra bottles water and packs of batteries. “I still remember when I got home from work and looked at the food and the necessary things that Andrew had brought us,” Javier’s mom says. “I wanted to cry because only a good-hearted person does that for other people and that person is Andrew.” The action was just another on the long list of times Andrew has been there for his Little Brother Javier and his family.
Just as her match with her Little Sister Amari was approaching the one-year mark, Big Sister Lindsay got some big news – she would be starting a new job. The one catch was that she’d have to move two hours away. The last thing she wanted to do was end her relationship with Amari, who had already experienced so much loss and change in her life. Faced with the decision of closing her match with Amari or seeing her less often, Lindsay talked through the options with their Match Support Specialist and then Amari’s grandmother before deciding to keep the match going and making the most of their less-frequent visits.