Journee and Danielle have a very special bond. Despite being matched a little under a year, they have become thick as thieves. Journee asked her mom for a Big Sister, as some of her older friends had one, and mom felt like it would be good for her, as Journee struggled with her self-confidence and being bullied at school. And we could not have found a Big better suited to help her learn and grow than Dani.
They’re first several outings were getting to know each other, exploring their likes and dislikes. Dani took Journee to her boxing gym, where she is a trainer, and to her church, where she was very involved. In fact, it was while looking for volunteer experiences for other members, when Dani herself decided to become a Big Sister. They came to BBBS group events, went out to eat and have had girls’ nights with pizza, movies and nails!!
Journee celebrated a pretty important milestone recently. After attending church, pretty much weekly, with Dani, Journee asked her if she could be baptized. Dani and Journee’s family did share a Christian background, although Journee had yet to be baptized. So last month, after blessing from her mom and surrounded by her new church family and her biological family, Journee was baptized. A very special day for everyone. And to top it off, Dani’s church also selected BBBS to be a recipient for one of their collection days. On Easter Sunday, they raised over $500 to support our work in the community.
Mom, Journee and Dani all have so much love and respect for one another and their roles in each other’s lives. Mom days that Journee’s self-esteem has improved so much since being matched. She says, “Journee is happy, so I am happy”. And Journee says, “I think God brought Dani into my life at the right moment”. Dani talks about her passion for children and volunteering in her community, saying that she “believes that BBBS was a gateway to experience both on a totally different level”.
Aidan and Sunny have been matched for a little over 3 years. In fact, they celebrated their 3-year Match-A-Versary this past February. Aidan’s mother, Linda enrolled Aidan when he was 8 years old because she wanted him to have a positive male role model. Her husband, and Aidan's father, passed away that year (2012) after a long battle with leukemia and it was very hard on the family. She thought that having a male role model would be very imperative for Aidan. Linda stated that in Sunny, Aidan has found a friend, resource, and someone he can share his life experiences with. She said that Sunny is a great role model especially now that Aidan is a teenager. She went on to say that he has been able to instill positivity in Aidan’s life and they are so blessed to have him in their lives.
Sunny, Aidan, and Linda all stated that the match started out a bit challenging as they were trying to figure what activities would be interesting and that they could connect on. Linda admitted that she and Sunny were big on trying to get Aidan interested in activities such as sports but they were not the most appealing to Aidan, so that was very short lived. However, she said that Sunny was very flexible and always put Aidan’s needs/wants first. So they started to brainstorm other things they could do. Aidan said that he and Sunny talk about the things they enjoy individually and just give them to try to see if it’s something they could enjoy together.
Aidan shared with Sunny his love for making string necklaces and was able to teach Sunny how to make them, as well. They also enjoy activities like going to the movies and Zap Zone. In fact, his mother recounted times when Aidan has come home bragging about beating Sunny in the games they played. Sunny also noted that Aidan is well known there because of his skill level (and how much he frequents there) so the staff all know him by name.
Linda really appreciates that Sunny and Aidan found a commonality of attending cultural related events, especially those related to Asian culture, given they share a similar racial identity.
And they love attending the BBBS annual Rec Night. They use the event as a way to celebrate another year being matched. Sunny said that it was the first event that the match attended and Aidan loves to play ping pong there.
Mom said, when talking about the match that “A big concern and reason for enrolling Aidan was that he is an only child and his father passed away when he was very young. Sunny has been someone he can talk to as a friend and brother. The greatest benefit is their friendship.”
Congratulations Aiden and Sunny, on 3 years matched and being our Match of the Month this month.
Our Match of the Month this month, is two matches. Twins, Jaiden and Kaiden, are matched with Uttam and Shawn...and how could we not highlight them both. Jaiden and Kaiden had been matched when they were younger, but had again been on the wait list for a couple of years, all the while their older brother Keyiyan continued to go on outing with his Big.
This family has been a part of BBBS for many years. Having lost their father at a young age, it has been important to us to support them. But finding the right Bigs for twins, at the same time (which only seemed fair), was not easy.
Uttam moved here for school and is now an Engineer living in Ann Arbor and wanted to do something in the community. He had a friend that was a Big, so looked us up. And Shawn was a Big during undergrad, and now that he’s here for Dentistry School, he signed up again. Two very driven, serious and busy guys….but they also know how to carve time out of their schedules to spend time with the boys!
We were able to match both boys in October…and they have since had a lot of fun on outings, attending Winter Festivals, going to Airtime, bowling and attending BBBS events. They came to our Skills Building Night earlier this year. This is a night when we lead the matches through activities that are skills based – focusing on communication, collaboration and trust – three things that are key in the beginning of a new match relationships. They then set goals for their match year based on the skills that they would BOTH like to further develop. We take the perspective that we all can learn and grow in the match, not just the young people. They also attended our recent Rec Night at the Meri Lou Rec Center in Ann Arbor. This is a time that they open up for our matches, and we had over 125 Bigs, Littles, Parent, Wait List kids, and Big for a Day volunteers running around having fun….blowing off some steam, since it’s too cold to do much outside!
These kinds of activities are just some of what BBBS provides for our matches. It’s important that anyone thinking about becoming a Big know that you’re not alone in this endeavor. We don’t match you and send you on your way….we provide free and low cost activity ideas, monthly check-in’s, training and supports, and group events like Rec Night, community service days, and cool things like our upcoming trips to the DSO, DIA and Heidelberg project, with an Arts and Culture grant.
We are so happy that all four of these guys have found each other and are growing their friendship, as pairs and all together.
Tanner was enrolled in 2013, when his family moved to Ypsilanti. His mom thought that he would use a friend to help support him as so many things has recently changed for their family. And at the time, David was beginning Medical School at UofM, and had a friend in the program that was a Big, and decided to sign up too!
Describing Tanner and David’s relationship is easy – they’ve become family. After 5+ years of being matched, that happens. They’ve gone to football and basketball games, they’ve celebrated birthdays, and even planted a garden – making pizza from their fresh picks!
Our favorite memory of them was a couple of years ago, we created a video for our Rise and Shine breakfast and they were one of the matches that participated. We asked the Littles questions about their relationship, and then showed the recording to the Bigs, and recorded their reactions. Tanner, when asked about his favorite memory of his time with David, said that it was a time that they were "skipping rocks at the lake". David was in awe….as that had happened several years before, with many more, and much bigger and exciting outings since. But what it reminded me is that kids are easy, they want your time and attention, and this was a simple moment when David and Tanner were hanging out that stuck with him.
So cool, right?!?!? We congratulate our Match of the Month and all of our Matches!!
January is National Mentoring Month….and the time when we recognize our Bigs of the Year. This year’s Big Sister of the year is Betsy McCallister and our Big Brother of the Year is Jeff Arnold. Betsy and Jeff both have been amazingly consistent Bigs and committed to supported BBBS in ways other than just being great Bigs!
Betsy was originally matched with Adrianna in our School program and in 2016 they transitioned to a more traditional Community program. She became Adrianna’s Big after raising her own 4 children…and they’ve become very close. Adrianna and Betsy have worked together to help Adrianna find tools for supporting her mental health. Adrianna has made a lot of progress in regulating her moods. In the past she would get upset and it would be hard for her to calm down. With the support of mental health providers, her family and the consistency of her Big Sister’s friendship, Adrianna has learned a lot of tools and she is more empowered to be in control of her emotions. This has led to less fights at school, less missed school and an overall improvement in her quality of life.
And when Jeff’s Little, David, first enrolled, his mother shared that she really wanted him to be able to experience some positive things in life. He was diagnosed with ADHD and his mom was worried that he might start making poor choices due to his high energy level. His mother also shared she was worried that he didn’t have a positive male in his life and really just wanted him to be able to have guy time with someone he can relate to. And Jeff has been that….they hit it off right away – and through lots of shared activities built a trusting relationship. And the results are in…his grades are going up and he said that a recent outing with Jeff to the Tree Runner park – a ropes and ziplining course – was the most fun he’d ever had in his life.
Two amazing adults taking the time to be the “a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction”.
Kailiah’s mother enrolled her because she wanted her to work on female empowerment and having more positive adult relationships. Kailiah was interested in developing a positive identity and have someone to help guide her into young womanhood. We matched Kailiah with Nina about a year ago. Nina has definitely helped and supported Kailiah this past year. They have created vision boards to show what their aspirations are for the future, come up with creative ways to earn money for activities Kailiah has wanted to participate in and worked on anger management skills. Nina and Kailiah have shared about how confident Kailiah is and how they have been able to build a strong friendship.
They love going out to eat, shopping, volunteering, going to movies, making food, and dancing to music and talking while they drive places in the car. They are always coming up with both simple and creative things to do together! Kailiah also shared that Nina has helped her to try new things like raw sushi and ice skating. Kailah went on to say that one of her favorite things to do with Nina is simply walking and talking. She said that it’s nice to have someone that she can be open with and someone who really listens to her.
One cool thing that they’ve done is spending some of the time on their outings dropping off job applications together, and Nina was there when Kailiah got her very first job! And Nina made her 15th birthday so special – she created a treasure hunt, and Nina used it as a way to tell Kailiah about all the things she loves about her. “Being Kailiah's Big Sister has opened my eyes to how much she has to go through. She's taught me how to be a better friend and how to relate to people with different life experiences. It's so fun seeing the world through her eyes.” And Kailiah just loves Nina, saying “Nina is special to me because she is the Big Sister I never thought I would get.”
Darrien is a 14 year old whose mom signed him up after his older sister left for college. They were extremely close and she had always been his confidant. He didn’t have a positive relationship with his dad, and mom really felt that having a Big Brother could help him build confidence, coping skills and with school.
Khurum came to us at last years’ Man2Man Big Brother recruitment event. He was a retired police officer and was identified as a mentor to one of our current board members. It was ‘the right time’ for him to step up and mentor in a more formal way through our program.
This match has been together since the summer, and is already developed a strong bond and had a significant impact on Darrien. Darrien and Khurum spend a lot of time outdoors and eating!! They’ve gone to the car show in Depot Town, hung out at Ford Lake and even spent some time on Darrien’s boat. Darrien really likes his time with Khurum, which is not always what we hear from 14 year old boys first matched, but I think that Khurum is such a great guy, with a great personality, that it’s just easy to develop a friendship with him.
Besides just hanging out and having fun, they have some pretty serious ‘adulting goals’. Darrien has his first job, so they are working on budgeting and money management. And mom let us know that Darrien got his first progress report at school and had all A’s, B’s and one C, which was a significant improvement over his previous report cards….and she attributes it to the time and attention that Khurum has given him these last few months.
Which is why, Khurum is our speaker at this years’ Man2Man event. Man2Man is a Big Brother recruitment Happy Hour. With nearly 100 boys and young men on our waiting list, we need every guy who has ever thought about being a Big Brother to take the leap.
Madison is a smart, spunky and bold 9 year old. Her mom enrolled her in BBBS a couple of years ago, after Madison learned that one of her friends had a Big Sister, and asked her mom to sign her up. It was just her and mom at home, and her dad had recently died, and mom felt that giving her another positive role model, would be a good thing.
Lauren had always known about BBBS and had decided it was now the time. She was motivated to get involved as she was in a male dominated field, and knew how much her mentors impacted her decision to change careers and move in that direction. She really wanted to encourage a young girl to be all that she could be.
Lauren and Madison have been matched for just over a year! During that time, they have shared a lot of great memories and match activities. They had a blast over the summer participating in our “Where in the World is Bowley” Contest. Bowley is our Bowl for Kids’ Sake mascot – we asked our matches to take him on outings with them as a way to show our bowlers how many adventures that their time and energy raising money for BBBS creates in the community. During the contest, they took Bowley to the library, to a Japanese calligraphy workshop, and local businesses in Depot Town, to Go! Ice Cream and to try on costume heads at Walmart.
Since being matched Lauren and Madison have developed a passion for the Arts, and in particular theater and music. The match has enjoyed some great community events such as Shakespeare in the Arb and are always attending Big Brothers Big Sisters group events!
This is a match that you should definitely check out on our Facebook page to see their photos with Bowley….and all of the other matches too!! So great!
Gabe was enrolled a little over a year ago by his mom. As a 15 year old boy, he and mom weren’t getting along great, which can by typical and she really felt that he would benefit from a man to spent time with and talk to. He was a bit hesitant to get matched, as he didn’t want a Big Brother that was going to treat him ‘like a kid’.
Hunter was a perfect match for Gabe. Hunter’s family has a long standing commitment to the community, volunteering, being on boards and supporting local organizations. He knew that it was time for him to step into the role, as he had graduated, was working full time and had time to commit to the program.
When I say perfect match, I mean one of those feelings that you get at the match introduction meeting that – oh, this is going to be so good. I say this all the time….Bigs and Littles many times just do everyday things…it’s not some grand gesture…it’s time spent, learning, growing, talking, listening – and that’s what Hunter and Gabe do. A lot of hanging out in Ann Arbor going to the Art Fair, Top of the Park, Pinball Pete’s…. walking around, eating, talking about sports, cars and shoes. Hunter is someone that Gabe knows is there to talk when he needs it.
I think this is a great match to highlight this month as we are kicking off our 100 MENtors in 100 Days campaign to increase the # of Big Brothers! We have so many boys on our waiting list, some of them waiting over a year. And Gabe and Hunter really show you how fun and easy it can be…it’s a couple of hours a couple of times a week. It makes more of a difference that you can ever know….
And Hunter is also our speaker at a Fall Evening with BBBS, our biggest fundraiser of the year. We’ll be at the home of Patrick and Nancy Paige on Sunday, Sept. 16th enjoying some good food, drink, and friends….raising money to recruit, enroll, training, make and support our Bigs, Littles and their families.
Derrick’s mother enrolled him as a 7 year old to help him get out of the house and do things in the community. His older sister had been matched in the program for several years and had a good experience, so now it was Derrick’s turn. They have a new baby at home, so giving him those experiences is difficult right now.
Debbie enrolled as a Big after one of her friends, who was a Big encouraged her to apply. Debbie felt like it was the right time in her life to commit to a Little and has a lot of energy and loves getting out and about.
Derrick and Debbie were matched about last October and have been having a ball exploring the community. They go on nature walks, go to the movies and have been learning about different sports together. One cool thing that they did this summer was create a scavenger hunt at Riverside Park for our Night at the Park event. It was something that they really wanted to do and have a blast watching everyone participate.
They have also been one of our star matches in our Where in the World is Bowley contest. Bowley is our Bowl For Kids Sake mascot, and this summer we’re asking matches to take Bowley with them on their adventures…share those photos with us, which we then post on our Facebook page and they get points for the number of likes and shares…and the winner will win a bowling party at Revel & Roll. Derrick and Debbie have taken Bowley to the park, to the Tigers game, the 4H Fair, putt putting and to the Humane Society. They’re really having fun with it and it’s so much fun to see them, and all of our matches, out and about this summer!
Thanks for sharing all your great pics, Debbie. And for being an awesome Big Sister to Derrick!
Changing Lives-- One Story at a Time.