Bigs of the Year 2015: Stefan and Connie

Every year, we recognize a Big Brother and a Big Sister for their commitment and dedication to the program – both as mentors and also as advocates for the mission. We’re thrilled to announce the Central Texas Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year are Stefan Sinclair and Connie Anderson.

Stefan, Connie and hundreds of other “Bigs” in Central Texas are making a huge difference to kids in our community. Please help us congratulate (and thank!) them in the comments.

 

Stefan

Stefan first got involved with BBBS in 2010, when he organized a team of coworkers to participate in Trudy’s Bowl for Kids. After that, he quickly became interested in the mission.

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Big Brother Stefan and Little Brother Miguel

“As I learned more about BBBS, its mission resonated with me and I decided to volunteer,” he says. “Reflecting on my own life, I recognized how a number of adults had made positive impacts on me growing up, through activities, projects or just sharing stories and advice from life experiences. There’s no reason I couldn’t do the same!”

In 2012, he did just that, and was matched with his Little Brother, Miguel. Their first outing was spent eating hamburgers and asking each other a lot of questions. Since then, they’ve become great friends. Their outings consist of everything from bowling and playing chess to learning about how video games are made to running 5K races.

While there have been countless outings, one of Stefan’s favorite memories with Miguel is running in the Stand Up: Anti-Bullying 5K run.

“[Miguel] finished second overall, winning a medal and even being interviewed by local media,” Stefan recalls. “He’s participating in Marathon High now, training for his first marathon, which is outstanding!”

Today, Miguel is interested in going to college, becoming a professional soccer player – and he considers Stefan his best friend.

 

Connie

Big Sister Connie was matched with her Little Sister, Bonnie, more than seven years ago. During that time, they’ve had some great adventures, and even enjoy simple things like cooking spaghetti in Connie’s kitchen.

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Big Sister Connie and Little Sister Bonnie

“It didn’t matter if we cooked at my condo, painted pottery or went strawberry picking; what mattered most was spending time together,” Connie says.

The Sisters have enjoyed so many activities, including going to see Shrek the Musical, creating a journal of the movies they’ve seen together and baking cheesecake (which is one of Bonnie’s favorite things to do). But perhaps the simplest thing is the most meaningful — just having those catch-up conversations when they get together.

“[I remember when] Bonnie asked if I would get a new Little after our match ended,” Connie recalls. “I told her I didn’t think so.  It would depend on where I was in my life, but even if I did, she would always be my Little.  I told her she was stuck with me until she decided otherwise… If it’s up to me, she’ll be stuck with me long after our official match ends.”

Years later, Little Sister Bonnie is less shy, more outgoing and appreciates the friendship and stability her Big Sister provides. When Connie told her about being chosen as Big Sister of the Year, Bonnie was thrilled. Clearly, these Sisters will be friends for life.

“I can’t imagine my life without Bonnie,” Connie says. “She IS my little sister.”


 

Thanks to Stefan and Connie — and hundreds of other volunteer mentors —  for their outstanding commitment to their Little Brothers and Sisters!

To learn more about volunteering, visit http://www.BigMentoring.org/Volunteer

National Mentoring Month 2015

As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, I’m reminded of one of his famous statements: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”.

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The relevance of that statement is underlined by this entire month, it seems, as January is National Mentoring Month. It’s a time dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of mentoring, celebrating the positive effect it has on young lives and recognizing the volunteer mentors who are doing so much to help their Little Brother or Sister.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating National Mentoring Month – and here are 4 ways you can get involved:

THANK YOU to the hundreds of volunteer “Bigs” out there, giving their time to mentor a Little Brother or Sister — and to everyone who is doing something for others!

Holiday Party 2014

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Hundreds of Little Brothers and Sisters enjoyed festive fun at this year’s Match Holiday Party! We welcomed nearly 400 Littles and Bigs, 21 event volunteers, 2 sponsors… and a partridge in a pear tree.

The Holiday Inn hosted again this year, and our friends at BURY kindly sponsored.

Every child enjoyed dinner with their mentor, a candy goodie bag and chose a toy to take home. Of course, the party was a success thanks to the hundreds of toys donated by amazing toy drive participants, including: ADP, Alpha Phi Alpha, Austin Passbook, O’Connell Robertson, URS, Padgett Stratteman, RBCFU, Salesforce and South Austin Rotary.

Thanks to everyone for making this event a success – and for bringing holiday magic to so many Littles!

Country Run raises $45,000 for BBBS kids

And they're off!  (Photos by Ashley Landis/The DeBerry Group)

And they’re off! The starting line at Country Run 2014. (Photos by Ashley Landis/The DeBerry Group)

CST Brands, the parent company of Corner Store, wrapped up its first-ever 5K fun run series called the Corner Store Country Run – and they had some BIG success!

Overall, the Country Run raised a total of $1 million for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Canada, and other children’s charities. On Saturday, Nov. 17, Corner Store CEO Kim Lubel presented a check for an amazing $500,000 to BBBS of America and the remaining proceeds will go to various children’s charities in each city where a race was held.

Yeehaw! (Photos by Ashley Landis/The DeBerry Group)

Yeehaw! The Country Run mascot rustles up some fun! (Photos by Ashley Landis/The DeBerry Group)

Here in Austin, the run donated $45,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and $50,000 to the Ride On Center for Kids!

The first Country Run kicked off in Montreal, Quebec on Sept. 13 and ended in San Antonio on Saturday, stopping along the way in Little Rock, Phoenix, Denver, Houston, Austin and Dallas. From beginning to end, the series attracted more than 20,000 particpants!

The course was farm-themed with hay bales, corn stalks and giant inflatable cows and pigs, and participants dressed in Western wear, overalls, cowboy hats, even a chicken costume. Registration included a T-shirt, blue finisher ribbon and a free country fair with live music, beer garden, food, carnival games and giveaways.

Did you go to the Country Run? What did you think?

#GivingTuesday : Join the movement on December 2nd

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Join us on December 2. How will you give back?

You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but did you know there is a Giving Tuesday?

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way to give something back — then tell everyone about how you’re doing it. In other words, Giving Tuesday is a global conversation that is all about helping others and spreading the word during one epic, social media blowout.

Here are some ideas for how you can join us – take your pick and show your support!

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  • Tweet, Facebook or Instagram about what the BBBS mission means to you. (Don’t forget to mention us: @bigmentoring #GivingTuesday)
  • Are you a Big? Tell your friends how you make a difference!

Give the gift of friendship

  • Sign up to become a mentor. What better way to give back?
  • Donate, or give a gift in honor of a loved one, to help more kids achieve success in life.

Join the BBBS Monthly giving group

Sisters bond over sweet, simple moments

For about a month after they were matched, Big Sister Lauren thought her Little Sister didn’t like her very much. She was so quiet that Lauren thought maybe she wasn’t enjoying spending time together. Then, one day, Little Sister Elizabeth got a haircut. When Lauren picked her up for their outing, Elizabeth’s mom revealed that she’d modeled her haircut after Lauren’s hairstyle.

Big Sister Lauren and Little Sister Elizabeth

Big Sister Lauren and Little Sister Elizabeth

A smile spreads across Lauren’s face as she tells the story. It was then that she realized Elizabeth was just a bit shy, and that mentoring is made up of countless little moments, woven together over time.

“The simplest things mean a lot to [your Little]. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned,” says Lauren.

Shortly after that, Lauren was pleasantly surprised by another sweet gesture. Elizabeth handed her a card, that read, “thank you for everything you do, I love spending time with you.”

Since then, Lauren and Elizabeth have grown even closer. They enjoy reading, eating frozen yogurt, and doing homework together. Recently, they went to Fall Fest and both dressed as Frida Kahlo (a Mexican painter who is best known for her self-portraits) in their homemade outfits.

Big Sister Lauren and Little Sister Elizabeth winning the costume contest at Fall Fest 2014.

Big Sister Lauren and Little Sister Elizabeth winning the costume contest at Fall Fest 2014.

Although Lauren admits the costume idea was based more on the available materials (crocheted items she found in her closet) more than anything else, she says she does want Elizabeth to be proud of her heritage.

“[It’s] important to me that Elizabeth knows that culture is beautiful and it’s something to be proud of. To have that dual identity is really something special and I want her to know that,” Lauren says.

That’s a lesson Lauren learned as a little girl herself. She recalls being teased about her appearance and having a hard time at school. Then, one of her teachers left an article on her desk about being Afro-Latina. Lauren kept that article and still has it in her memory box to this day. It seems the comfort and strength she took from a teacher’s thoughtfulness resonates even in adulthood. Now, she pays it forward.

“I want Elizabeth to feel cultural pride and to understand that being bilingual is a strength,” she says.

Since they’ve been matched, Elizabeth has started communicating more openly, shares her feelings and is even having an easier time with her homework. Lauren recalls sitting in a café, watching as Elizabeth breezed through her algebra homework.

“I was so proud of her. That made my whole week, I could cry,” Lauren said, as she began to tear up. “You go in expecting to do something for a kid and you get so much in return.”

Although Lauren and Elizabeth have only been matched for six months, it’s clear they’ll stick together. We look forward to many more simple, yet meaningful, shared moments in their future.

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Lauren and Elizabeth are just one of nearly 1,000 matches in Central Texas.  There are still 600 local children waiting for a mentor. With your support as a donor or volunteer, you can help to end the wait.

Workplace Mentoring: One Year Later

This month we’re celebrating the one year anniversary of Beyond School Walls (our workplace mentoring program) with our partners at Rackspace and AISD! It feels like yesterday that Beyond School Walls (BSW) launched with a goal of providing middle school students with workplace exposure, career and college awareness, and a post high school plan. In other words, it’s still one-to-one mentoring, but each match spends their time at the Big’s workplace (in this case, Rackspace)!

Little Brothers and Sisters arrive at Rackspace for the first time last year -- October 2013.

Little Brothers and Sisters arrive at Rackspace for the first time last year — October 2013.

Last year, Rackspace employees cheered as the school bus pulled into the parking lot. Little Brothers and Sisters were visibly excited to embark on their first meeting as they entered the fun and vibrant Rackspace building, complete with game room.

Today, there are more than a dozen AISD students enrolled in the BSW program, with a mix of both 7th and 8th graders. Every Little is bused to the Rackspace office, where they enjoy activities with their Bigs – including ping pong, foosball, crafts and much more.

Little Sister Navaeh and Big Sister Courtney at Rackspace, just before starting a game of ping pong.

Little Sister Nevaeh and Big Sister Courtney at Rackspace, just before starting a game of ping pong.

Big Sister Courtney says her experience as a mentor has been “incredibly fulfilling”.

“My job at Rackspace took on a whole new meaning when I joined the program. It wasn’t just about my individual contributions to the company or my regular 8-5 anymore,  it became more about how Rackspace can impact a child early on and the fact that I am lucky enough to drive that influence,” Courtney says. “As a mentor we were told that we could have a big impact on our Littles, but in fact, my Little has had a tremendous impact on me in so many ways and that is simply invaluable.”

New this year, the program has also expanded to include a new feature: Bigs can now visit their Littles during  the school lunch break! This means they’re meeting twice as often, in both an office and educational environment.

Little Brother and Big  Brother enjoying some foosball in the Rackspace game room!

Little Brother and Big Brother enjoying some foosball in the Rackspace game room!

These outings will introduce Little Brothers and Sisters to work environments and potential  career paths, and help them gain an understanding of the educational requirements, and life skills needed to achieve their own professional success.

Here’s to another great school year and a wonderful partnership with Rackspace and AISD!