There is a long list of Little Brothers and Little Sisters waiting for a mentor and friend, said the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Charles Pierson. Many of the youngsters suffer from neglect or traumatic circumstances in the home. Through BBBS, “I don’t know of a better way to help kids face adversity.”
These children are shy, withdrawn and suffer academically. They find it hard to trust anyone. To be a Big Brother or Big Sister there is a screening process, said Pierson; “The number one focus is child safety.”
This program changes lives and creates a ripple effect. “It changes a life for the better forever – and then that life changes the next generation’s lives,” he said.
Big Sister of the year Leslie Bennett was matched with 12-year old Little Sister Marsha Stanley in 2010. Bennett is on the Board of Directors and is a Commercial Marketing Analyst with Advance Auto Parts. They connected immediately, she said.
Bennett said she was influenced to be a Big Sister by a colleague in Indianapolis and realized it was a great way to give back to the community. “It takes time, like any other relationship, to get to know each other.” Marsha had two Big Sisters before Leslie and it took Marsha some time to trust that she wasn’t going anywhere.
Marsha said Leslie has made a big difference in her life. “I used to sit at home and do nothing. Now I am more confident in myself, more active and more focused in school.” Marsha just turned 15 on May 12 and to celebrate they went to have their nails done together, said Marsha, who was sporting a big smile.
Big Brother of the year Dave Koehn was matched with then 8-year old Little Brother Adrian Ward. They have been together for three years. Koehn is a sportscaster known as the “Voice of the Cavaliers” announcing all UVA home games and major sporting events. Koehn said, “I feel like I am very fortunate in my life and I wanted to give back.” He is passionate about being a Big Brother; “You’re volunteering but it doesn’t feel like it.”
Little Brother Adrian said Dave was someone he could talk to and that it helped him get to know other people. His father has been incarcerated since he was 6 months old. Adrian was shy and struggled with anxiety. “When I met him I was really shy,” said Adrian. “After a while I began talking and it took my shyness away.” He and Dave even took a trip to Kings Dominion. They throw Frisbees and often go fishing. Dave said, “Adrian is a much better fisherman than I am.”
Tuesday evening at Center in the Squire Juli Ferrell, President of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Virginia Alliance, presented the awards. David Koehn, in accepting the award, said one of the program’s strengths is its simplicity. The simplest things they do together are the most valuable. “He enriches me and I enrich him.” He is still trying to get Adrian to fully trust him.
Leslie Bennett, in accepting her award, said when she first became a Big Sister and was preparing to meet her new Little Sister Marsha she set goals and milestone measurements and created an action plan. All that didn’t work too well and Leslie found out that by simply spending time with Marsha she was on her way to achieving the goals. Leslie’s approached to being a Big Sister is to “lean into it and giving it 100%.” Marsha has grown to womanhood with a mentor that has taught her that she can do anything.
By Valerie Garner