Every child deserves a chance to see their potential realized. Matching children with caring, supportive mentors changes lives. It changes the life of the Little and oftentimes, it changes the life of the Big as well. Typically, in one year, our agency is serving about 1,000 matches. When thinking about the 1,000 Bigs who have signed up to be a Big and volunteer their time each month to spend time with a Little, we feel a sense of gratitude.
In this post, we give the pen to Arin Whitman. Arin has been matched with her Little, Amelia since 2017. Hear what Arin has to say about being a Big.
WHY I BECAME A BIG
In 2015, I moved from Pittsburgh to Massachusetts for a new job opportunity. Once we bought a house in Worcester, I was looking for a way to get involved in my new community. When I was living in Pennsylvania, I was involved in the community in a variety of ways, including coaching basketball and track. Once I was in Worcester, I soon realized that aspect of my life was missing. My partner suggested I look into BBBS since she had some siblings involved in the program who really enjoyed it. It is a little different from coaching because you are now one-on-one with a little, but I thought maybe that would give me more opportunity to really get to know them. That was always an issue with coaching. There were always too many kids to really connect with everyone.
MEETING MY LITTLE
After the application and interview process, I was matched with Amelia. I was a little worried about being responsible for transporting someone else’s child to various locations, but the BBBS staff ensured everything was safe for both parties. They really spent a lot of time with me giving useful tips for safe outings. When Amelia and I finally met, I met with her and her family in the BBBS offices. We all sat and talked with a BBBS staff member for a while and then decided that Amelia and I would go grab something to eat. She was a little nervous leaving with what was still a stranger to her, but I sat in the car with her and told her a little more about myself, she really enjoys hearing about my pets, until she felt comfortable leaving. I learned that day that she LOVES Friendly’s! We have been several times since. I think having the assistance of the BBBS staff really makes the process run smoothly.
BEING A BIG
Today, Amelia is twelve years old and we are all about trying new things! My goal for Amelia is for her to not be afraid of doing new things like me, but to be more adventurous. I know I have missed out on a lot of great experiences in my life through fear of the unknown. I want Amelia to get to enjoy those experiences. I have one particular memory from a couple summers ago. We were participating in a summer program that BBBS was hosting called Let’s Go Big. The goal of the Let’s Go Big program was to get matches to experience new, outdoor adventures that they otherwise may not have experienced together.
One of the trips was a kayaking trip, which I was a little nervous for because I’m not a fan of water activities, I cannot swim! Amelia took that opportunity to give me the same encouragement that I have been giving her for years. I love that Amelia didn’t want me to miss out on the experience. With her encouragement, we went out a little ways, but when the group went out further, we chose to stay along the shore. Amelia made me feel so proud of myself just for going out there. I always try to make sure that I am encouraging her and finding new experiences for us to enjoy. It was also amazing to see how she has really been a positive influence on me. I know potential Bigs may worry that the children will complain or misbehave the entire time, but kids are kids. A lot of times they mirror what you are putting out. As long as I come to the table with a positive attitude and am putting in effort to create an educational and enjoyable experience, she has always put in the effort to try to learn from it. Just how she was able to offer me the same encouragement with kayaking that I usually offer to her when she is trying something new. Kids are always watching and listening to us. As a Big, it is my responsibility to ensure I am bringing that positivity.
Over the last few years, I have always tried to make sure we focus on doing what is best for her growth and development, but as she has grown older, I can really see what a caring person she has become. She always asks about my family and my job and she remembers people she met when she has visited with me. Many times, when we go someplace with cool treats or do some baking, she tries to remember to save some for her family. Whenever she gets into the car, she always says hello and tells me all about what has been happening. We do not always need a fun activity anymore. We can just talk. Soon she will be a teenager, but I believe her family has done a fantastic job helping shape her into a wonderful human being. I just see my job as adding a little icing on the cake!
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Big, visit here.
Read our full Guide to Becoming a Big and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass & Metrowest here.