DJ is a 13-year old boy who lives in Ann Arbor with his mom and sisters. He was previously matched with a Big Brother for 3 years – and when that match closed, we all felt that he would continue to benefit from another mentoring relationship as he was in middle school, and 9th grade this upcoming school year, and we know how important these transition periods are for young people.
Andy enrolled in BBBS last year. He’d been retired for 4 years, and had time and knowledge to share. Andy said he’d been reflecting on all of the people that had provided him with mentorship in his career and wanted to help a young person better position themselves for success.
And these two seem to have been an easy fit. Both are active and outgoing. Everything they seem to do involves being out in the community, hiking, having fun and learning together. We’ve gotten to see them really develop their relationship as they’ve attended several of our group events….giving back during one of our community service days, Ypsi PROUD and taking a trip to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to take in the “May the 4th Be with You” performance. So, all you Star Wars fans out there….come join us, we have a young person to match you with to play light sabers with.
They’re both busy and traveling this summer for vacations and summer camp, but have been able to stay in contact through phone calls, texts and Andy always sends pictures of his travels to DJ when checking in.
We’re excited for school to be back in session and them to be able to see each other more regularly again, as we know what an important transition it is to go into High School and we want to have as many people in supportive roles for DJ so that he can achieve his full potential.
Makalia is a 14-year-old young lady who first was enrolled in our School Based program, but then transitioned to Community Based when we transitioned out of doing SB. She was a shy little girl. During the initial interview, when she was 10, she took quite a bit of coaxing to get her to answer questions and get comfortable with the idea of having a Big Sister.
Lori is a Video Producer, who worked at Cartoon Network in Atlanta before moving back to Michigan to be closer to family. She had some experience with kids, but not a lot, and is a self-described introvert.
The good news is that these ladies are two peas in a pod. Makalia loves sketching and is a part of the anime club at school, and Lori is such a creative person. We have been so excited to watch their relationship grow…and have had an amazing front row seat. They’ve been doing lots of simple low-key activities, as they have gotten to know one another over the last 8 months! They’ve gone bowling, walked around the mall, out to eat and love to bake and cook….even making their own miso soup. Yum!
Like I said, we’ve had a front row seat to this match, as they’ve come to several of our group events. At Rec Night, they had a blast swimming in the pool at the Meri Lou Rec Center....and recently enjoyed a tour of campus at our College Campus Day at Washtenaw Community College. But I think our favorite time spent with this match was at the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. We loaded a bus of Bigs and Littles, along with Makalia and Lori, and headed downtown to check out the amazing art that is the Heidelberg. Trey, the artist, gave the matches a tour and talked about his work and its’ meaning. Makalia said that going on the tour and talking to Trey encouraged her to be her ‘authentic self’.
Mom, Lori and her Mentoring Specialist, Ashley, have all noted that her confidence has blossomed through these activities and her connecting to other Littles in the program. And Lori loves spending time with Makalia – she says that she’s fun, upbeat and says that her time with Makalia is a nice change of pace from her day-to-day life. Two lives, both changed, because of their newfound friendship…Oh the Places They’ll Go!!
Kaleb and Dennis are currently the longest match at BBBS! They have been matched 11 years, and this is a bitter sweet honor for them because their match is officially closing. Kaleb is now 18 years old and recently completed High School, which means their match graduates the program. Kaleb has had a lasting friendship with Dennis for 11 years and although Kaleb is graduating from High School and their participation in the program is ending, his friendship with Dennis will continue.
Dennis and Kaleb have had an array of experiences together. Dennis has taken Kaleb bowling, to the movies, Tigers games, Red Wings games, bike riding, kayaking, library visits and helped with homework. Kaleb stated “I have had a lot of fun and good times in the past 11 years with Dennis. We’ve done a lot of amazing things together…. made a lot of memories throughout the years that will stick with me forever.”
Kaleb’s mother Jennifer said she signed Kaleb up for a Big in 2008 because this was a rough time in his life, and he was in need of a positive male role model. Upon being enrolled Kaleb was a little apprehensive so she knew it would take time for him to get comfortable in the match. She went on to say Dennis has been able to “show men in a more positive light and helped Kaleb to be more trusting”. She loves that Dennis was chosen for Kaleb and she couldn't be happier.
Dennis shared that being a Big Brother to Kaleb has been one of an enriching and rewarding experience. He shared that when he first met Kaleb he was “a shy, but engaging boy, but as time went on, they were able to build a strong friendship”.
Dennis went on to shared one of the most memorable moments with Kaleb - teaching him how to throw, catch and hit a baseball when he was very young. He also talked about visits to the library, riding bicycles, going fishing, attending BBBS activities, going to movies, Tiger baseball games, EMU football games, Detroit Red Wing hockey and bowling. At each event they would go out for a hamburger at McDonalds after and talk about the various happenings in Kaleb’s life.
Kaleb shared a time when he experienced a family death in 2016 and how Dennis helped by taking his mind off of the tough times. He said it was “great to know I had someone that I’ve grown so close to…and basically think of as family” to be there. Continuing to say, “we’ve grown so close over the past 11 years and I would like for our relationship to keep growing”.
Congratulations Kaleb and Dennis for being our Match of the Month!
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.
Changing Lives-- One Story at a Time.