Big Sister Kathleen and Little Sister Safiyyah are matched through our College Bigs mentoring program with St. Joseph’s University and Gompers Elementary School. Through this program, Bigs visit their Littles at their school once a week during the school year. Kathleen and Safiyyah were introduced in October of 2013 and, since then, have developed a strong friendship. “She has become more and more comfortable with me since we first met, and visiting her is one of the highlights of my week,” Big Sister Kathleen has explained.
When the pair is together, they often talk about school and what’s going on at home, or work on an arts and crafts project. “One of the things that Safiyyah told me about is the time she made sloppy joe’s for her entire family. She prepared the meat, toasted the rolls in the oven and served her family all by herself. This is very impressive for someone who is only in 6th grade!” Kathleen is confident her Little’s future will be bright. “Safiyyah is very smart and determined and tells me she wants to be an engineer… she is a very sweet and intelligent girl and I know she has big things ahead of her!”
Thanks to all of our great College Bigs who see their Little’s full potential and encourage them to follow their dreams.
Big Brother Mike and Little Brother Justin are the 2017 Male Match of the year. They received their award at the first ever Building BIG Awards, which where held at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. This video was created to show the incredible impact of their match.
For Big Sister Melissa, volunteering has always been a part of life. When she started working full-time after college and researched different options and opportunities, she found that becoming a Big Sister worked best with her schedule and was the type of volunteer experience she was looking for. “I wanted to be able to interact with and help a young person, one-on-one, and this allowed me to do that,” Melissa explained.
In August 2008, she was introduced to her Little Sister, Amber, who was only nine-years-old at the time. Amber came from a large family and so having individual attention was something that was very exciting. Over the years, Melissa and Amber have done lots of fun activities together, including agency favorites like the Annual Picnics, holiday parties and ice skating. Their favorite activities involve making something, like pizza or cookies. “It’s great to see her take the lead on those projects and take ownership of things,” Melissa told us. “As she is getting older, we are also discovering new things to do together as her interests change.”
According to her Big Sister, Amber is now more active at school and at home, and the biggest change is in her maturity. “She’s gone from a kid to a teen. She understands and appreciates people more than before. Her personality has developed over the years and I’ve noticed she’s more self-aware and has better relationships with her sisters.”
Melissa has benefitted from being involved as well. “I enjoy having a friend who is younger than me and from a different walk of life… she brings out the fun-loving and silly sides of me. We love to laugh and have fun.” The Big Sister would recommend the program to anyone considering it. “It’s definitely a commitment and something to take seriously, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things I could have done as a young adult.
Some of our supporters know Alex Toner as our Development Officer, working to bring in monetary donations to further our agency’s mission. But to eleven-year old Zahir, Alex is his Big Brother.
Alex and Zahir were matched in July 2012. “I’m the youngest in my family, so I wanted to spend time with a young person to have fun and offer guidance and support,” Alex told us. “What I like most about spending time with Zahir is he is honest and has a ton of energy.”
Sometimes the match will have a catch and a slice of pizza or attend Big Brothers Big Sisters’ events, like Bigs & Littles Trainings (or BLTs for short). “The BLT’s are planned and facilitated by Match Support Specialists. The staff talks to kids about their expectations, what it means to be a Little, showing appreciation and setting match goals. Bigs participate in a round table discussion, are given extra training for their roles and can trouble shoot any challenges with staff and other Bigs. It was really beneficial for both Zahir and me.”
The Big Brother says there have been two stand-out moments in his match so far. “Through a very generous ticket donation to the agency, Zahir and I were able to sit courtside at a 76ers game in January. Seeing his face when he realized where we were sitting was amazing, and he even told me, ‘This is the best day I’ve ever had!'”
The second came stand-out moment occurred later, at an unexpected moment. Outside of volunteering as a mentor, Alex also devotes time and energy to another cause, the Penn State Dance MaraTHON, which helps children with cancer and their families at Hershey Medical Center. Over the past year, Alex raised money and awareness for the cause through the Hope Express, an alumni effort, and was selected to be a runner in a special 135-mile relay race from Hershey Medical Center to State College one February to kick off the Dance MaraTHON. To help keep his spirits up during the challenging race, Zahir mailed Alex a note which was given to him at his halfway point. “Seeing the letter during the race was a huge surprise and gave me the extra boost I needed to finish.”
Alex says being a Big keeps him grounded and helps him see the world through the eyes of a child again. “It’s an awesome experience, and I hope others consider getting involved. Spending time with a child just twice a month can really impact their life.”
Growing up, Big Sister Roxiann had an amazing stepmother who helped her realize how important it was to have a role model in her life. Knowing how much that relationship meant to her, Roxiann decided she wanted to give back. She got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern PA and was matched with her Little Brother, Travis, more than 10 years ago.
Over the years, the two of them did everything from sporting and cultural events to even doing their homework together when Roxiann went back to school to further her education. Travis said his favorite memories are “Roxiann coming to my games and cheering me on.” There’s no question that Roxiann broadened Travis’ horizons. “She took me places I had never been, we just enjoyed spending time together,” Travis stated.
When asked what Roxiann would tell others about being a Big, she told us, “I don’t think you can begin to tell someone the satisfaction and excitement they will feel as they watch their Little grow. I don’t think someone could have told me how much I would gain from the experience or how much I would enjoy it.”
Travis is now in his twenties, and although their match technically ended when he graduated high school, their friendship has never faded. Travis and Roxiann keep in touch through phone calls and Facebook, with Travis recently asking Roxiann to be listed as a family member on the site. Travis even joined Roxiann’s kickball team where together they play games weekly and have an undefeated team. “I want every Big to know that whatever they can give is so worthwhile. Your time is all a Little really needs.”
Big Sister Jean and Little Sister Xzavia have been matched in Chester County since 2010. “Xzavia has so much energy and is fun to be around,” said Big Sister Jean. The pair does a lot together, and their favorite activity is taking trips to the beach. A few summers ago, the match planned a car wash in their neighborhood to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern PA.
“I got the idea from my son’s tennis team who held a similar fundraiser,” Big Sister Jean told us. “I thought, ‘Wow, we can do this for Big Brothers Big Sisters so they can help more people like they’ve helped us.'” Together, Jean and Xzavia recruited family and friends to volunteer and organized a car wash in the parking lot of their local McDonald’s. During one weekend afternoon, they washed 25 cars and raised $350 in donations for our agency.
Big Sister Jean and Little Sister Xzavia agree that the best part of the experience was having fun and feeling good knowing they gave back to the community.
In 1995, Matt Frangiosa was a recent college graduate eager to get involved in the community. In August of that year, he was matched with his Little Brother, Ryan, a 10-year-old from Conshohocken. Ryan lived with his single mom and two older sisters who were high school drop-outs. Matt described his Little as “a good kid who needed a positive influence.”
After they were matched, Matt and Ryan did a lot together, like going to the arcade and Big Brothers Big Sisters’ events in the community. Wherever they were, Big Brother Matt always encouraged Ryan to stay in school and make good choices. “There was a lot of peer pressure in his high school, and talking about it really bonded us,” Matt said. “Being exposed to risky behaviors and seeing the path his sisters took could have made it easier for him to give in to temptation, but he always came to me to talk things through.”
Little Brother Ryan went on to graduate high school and went right into the working world. He is now in his twenties, continues to work in the area and is taking classes at a local college. Matt and Ryan continue to keep in touch and talk on a weekly basis.
Matt says his experience as a Big Brother drastically impacted his life. For a number of years, he served on the Events Committee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montgomery County; and in 2008, Matt founded his own non-profit, Feel the Warmth, which provides winter coats, school supplies and toys to children in need.
Photos: Matt and Ryan in 1995; Matt and Ryan with Matt’s nieces and nephew.
In the summer of 2011, an eight-year-old boy from Philadelphia named Christopher gained the attention of the local news as he continued to wait to be matched with a Big Brother. Christopher’s mother, Tira, wanted a mentor for her oldest son because he did not have a positive male influence in his life on a consistent basis and needed a reliable role model. Christopher’s story was highlighted on Fox 29 in order to raise awareness of our organization’s huge, ongoing need for mentors. We are happy to report, though, that we did find a wonderful Big Brother for Christopher and they have been successfully matched for four years.
Sheil and Christopher met in the fall of 2011 and immediately hit it off. Both Big Brother and Little Brother are laid back, have a great sense of humor and love to laugh. They’ve attended quite a few BBBS SEPA sponsored match activities including going to Dave & Buster’s, ice skating and the Annual Picnic, and also like to stay active by playing basketball or having a catch.
Big Brother Sheil really cares about his Little and says he and Christopher often talk about school together. The Little Brother has a goal to improve in reading and is already doing better in the subject. “It’s important he keeps up with school and improves where he needs to,” Sheil told us. “I hope he can be a good influence on his two younger brothers as well.”
Sheil says his experience as a mentor has been fun and rewarding. “I’m doing things I wouldn’t be doing otherwise. It’s a great experience and I can’t imagine there being better opportunities where you can focus on one person who you can help and form a relationship with. You get to see the person grow and help them in whatever way you can. That’s what makes it a really unique experience.”
Big Sister Marie and Little Sister Raven are the 2017 Female Match of the year. They received their award at the first ever Building BIG Awards, which where held at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. This video was created to show the incredible impact of their match.
Chris Miles and his “Big Brother” John have been matched since Chris was only 11 years old. Chris was named the Alumni of the year in 2017. They received their award at the first ever Building BIG Awards, which where held at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. This video was created to show the incredible impact of their match.