The benefits of a Big and Little relationship
This message is a shout-out to a “big”ger-than-life organization, a school administrator and a high school student who, together, changed my daughter’s young life.
Big Brothers Big Sisters serves young people from age 5 through young adulthood in one-to-one mentoring friendships, according to its website, which adds, “Bigs and Littles hang out two or three times a month for a few hours doing normal, everyday activities, like seeing a movie, doing homework, playing games, going out to eat or just hanging out!”
There might be a preconceived notion about this group - that it helps those without siblings. That it gives kids without one a “big” person to guide them.
But my then-10-year-old daughter had an older sister. They just didn’t get along. The span of their years and their interests didn’t jive. They couldn’t connect much.
Katie became withdrawn - and thankfully, a school staff member noticed.
Many of you know Denise Saylor as a school principal. At that time, she was an elementary school guidance counselor. She called Katie to her office and, after some conversation, asked her if she had siblings.
Katie told her she had a sister but that they didn’t get along. My husband and I would have agreed with the sentiment, and plenty of parents had told us this was not uncommon, but it was no less difficult to hear.
Mrs. Saylor suggested Big Brothers Big Sisters. Students at our district’s high school had been trained to act as Bigs, traveling to the elementary and middle schools and spending time with their Littles during the school day.
Katie’s Big, Raghita, was a true gift. She visited with Katie weekly. They did crafts. They read books. Sometimes, they just hung out.
Raghita never missed a Big/Little get-together, and Katie looked forward to each one of them.
They were friends, despite their difference in years, and maintained their Big/Little relationship for a few years.
She was a true gift to our family, as was Mrs. Saylor, who saw an issue and faced it head-on.
The Big Sisters experience had a tremendous impact on Katie.
September was Big Brothers Big Sisters Month, during which time the organization celebrated “the importance of mentorship and encouraging our community to volunteer, donate and help spread the word.”
My family contributes to this worthy cause because it had a tremendous impact on us as well.
More than 2 million Littles have benefited from Bigs in the past 10 years alone. Still, 30,000 adult volunteers are needed to become Bigs to youth waiting to be matched.
Raghita, if I’m lucky enough to have you as a reader, please know that Katie is thriving - with many thanks to you. She graduated from college in May and, just three weeks later, started her “dream job” as a textile designer in southern California. She is strong and confident and, as other parents said would be so, has a very close relationship with her sister.
Katie always said she wanted to pay it forward and be a Big Sister when she got to high school. She was never able to make it work because of commitments with other activities.
Her opportunity came, just in a different manner. She was part of a summertime mural class offered by The Baum School of Art. Each year, these young artists would gather weekly and paint at a chosen location. Murals by Katie and her peers can be found at Lehigh Valley Health Network, Cedarbrook Senior Care, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Flint Hill Farms - and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley.