To Protect and Serve

Veterans are notably resourceful and often self-reliant. There are times, however, when even America’s finest can use some extra help. Natasha Taylor, a single mom and Army veteran, found that support through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and a Big Brother for her son.

“They’ve been matched since my son was in 9th grade,” Natasha said. “Hickman needed a male role model in his life. A father figure. He’s always been a good kid, but once he was matched with Sean, I saw a tremendous change. He was more positive. It was like a big weight had been lifted off him.”

Hickman’s father has not been in his life at all. “His father didn’t contact him on his birthday last week,” Natasha added. “Sean did.”

“One of the things I appreciate most is the time Sean spends with Hickman,” Natasha continued. “He’s gone to football games, basketball games, and wrestling matches. He’s been such a blessing to my family.”

The match does impact the whole family. Natasha is a single mom raising Hickman and a young daughter while working. She is also trying to advance her career by going back to college.

“Our match helps Natasha by providing Hickman with a male friend who, while older, is still close enough in age to understand what he’s going through,” Sean explained. “High school isn’t easy. You need people you can count on to be there for you regularly, and who understand and sympathize. Natasha has a lot on her plate. I’m happy to support Hickman and, if nothing else, provide a fun escape from the normal routine of high school life.”

Natasha is a 10-year army veteran who was medically and honorably discharged from the service. Following in his mom’s military footsteps, Hickman is enrolled in his high school’s ROTC program. He plans to join the Air Force upon graduation.

Veterans’ needs are unique. Recognizing this, BBBS offers mentoring services to the children of veterans. The agency also actively recruits veterans to serve as Big Brothers and Sisters.

“Members of military families are not always home due to trainings, deployments, duty assignments, field exercises and more,” said Saul Espinoza, a veteran himself and a BBBS enrollment specialist. “This can be particularly stressful. A mentor can provide friendship, as well as a sense of stability, security and trust. A Big Brother or Sister can serve as an additional resource and role model when a member of the family is away.”

Having a Big Brother in his life proved critical for Hickman when he experienced a racist incident at his high school – a comment from a follow ROTC member. “Hickman kept it to himself for about 3 months,” Natasha said. “When I found out about it, I got right on the phone with Sean.”

“Hickman and I discussed what had happened,” Sean said. “We talked about how unfair and unfortunate it is that racism exists. More than anything, I affirmed that he had done the right thing by not retaliating, and I told him I was proud of him, which I very much am. It would have been easy and understandable for Hickman to have lashed out, but he kept his composure and brought the incident to the attention of the proper authorities.”

According to Natasha, each outing Sean and Hickman have together just “steps it up” for Hickman. She laughs about the days Sean picks Hickman up from school. “Kids look at them and ask Hickman ‘Who is that?’ and he just says ‘My brother,’ and leaves it at that.”

“Because Hickman is African-American and Sean is Caucasian, the kids look at him and wonder what’s going on. But I’m glad Sean is not African-American because many people are all about their race and my children are not raised that way. We’re military, and in the service you see all races. I want my son to continue to like everybody.”

Sean sees himself gaining as much from the match as his Little Brother. “Hickman is a great guy. I enjoy hanging out and joking around with him, whether we’re just grabbing a quick bite to eat or going to a mall or arcade. He has an awesome sense of humor and we laugh constantly. He’s one of the most respectful people I’ve ever met. He thanks me and tells me he had a good time every time we hang out, and I can tell it’s sincere. I enjoy our time together.”

One event Natasha particularly remembers occurred after a trip she, Hickman, and her daughter had taken to Galveston. “On the trip Hickman saw a two-door BMW that is his dream car,” Natasha recalled. “He posed by the car and we took pictures. Then Hickman told Sean about it. Three weeks later Sean picked Hickman up in the exact same car. Hickman was shocked. It turns out Sean’s dad owned the same kind of BMW and Sean had borrowed it just to take Hickman for a ride.”

“Hickman came back from that ride beaming,” Natasha added. “When I say there’s been nothing but good from this match, I try not to tear up. I couldn’t ask for a better Big Brother for my son.”

Jack in the Box announces festive fundraiser for BBBS kids!

By Megan Jodie, intern

Today, Jack in the Box restaurants announced their 7th annual fundraising effort to benefit BBBS kids. Each year Jack in the Box sells a limited-edition promotional item that customers may purchase in participating Jack in the Box restaurants – so get yours today!medium_Dashing_Jack_Big_Brothers_Big_Sisters_POP

This year’s promotional item is a limited-edition Dashing Jack antenna ball/ornament. It only costs $1 and it’s a perfect decoration for home or antenna. This year Dashing Jack is wearing a red and green bow tie and a red or green top hat. In the previous years, Jack in the Box has been able to raise $1.7 million nationally for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Who knew that such a small item could make such a big difference?

The proceeds from this fundraiser will support our mentoring programs, including Military Mentoring. Jack in the Box is a huge supporter of military families and our mentoring program —  and they even encourage their employees to volunteer themselves!

Starting today, support BBBS kids by visiting your local Jack in the Box and donating an extra dollar. A dollar may not seem like very much money, but it can help impact a child’s life forever!

Serving those who serve – our new program for military families

We’re excited to announce that we just received grant funding to launch a new program and better serve military families in Central Texas. The program aims to reinforce the connection between a child and their parent by offering a friend and an ally to children with parents in the military.

This means we’re expanding to Bell County to serve Ft. Hood and we’re enrolling kids of active-duty military, deployed parents, National Guard, Reserves, and children who are Survivors. Guardians can enroll a child between the ages of 9-16 online or get more information on our military mentoring program page.

Both military families and the volunteers receive support from trained BBBS staff members. Our Killeen-based program manager, Abha Cole, is currently enrolling children and guardians can contact her directly at or 254-394-3878.

Of course, any child enrolled in the program will also have the opportunity to receive a college scholarship. A $2,000 scholarship via the BBBS Foundation is available to kids ages 14 and older who have been in our program and matched with the same mentor for at least one year — and go on to earn a high school diploma or GED. Many colleges, universities and trade schools in Texas also provide matching opportunities for these scholarship funds.

One mother was quick to sign up her daughters — and said it’s been a positive experience for her entire family. Watch her story: