2013 National Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year Award Winners!

Big Brother of the Year – Pat Ferrell Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters


Big Sister of the Year – Sandra Rayford Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City Missouri

Pat Ferrell

Pat and his Little Brother Jamir have been matched since 2009 when Jamir was 11 years old. The story begins when Pat’s company, RLI, launched a corporate partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Even though Pat was very busy with his career and a 6-year-old son, he enrolled in the Lunch Buddies program, a decision that changed his life for the better, forever.

Initially Pat was matched with Jamir because of their shared passion of sports. When they first met, Jamir was very reserved and struggling in school. Just as quickly as Pat and Jamir’s friendship blossomed, Jamir’s grades improved due to the positive encouragement and accountability Pat provided. “I made a deal with him that if he turned in all of his homework and had no unexcused absences for three straight weeks, I would bring him lunch from his favorite restaurant,” Pat said. “He just needed someone to show interest and hold him accountable.”

After the school year ended, the school-based match transferred to a Community-Based match as Jamir was beginning a tough chapter of his life. Thanks to Pat and Jamir’s careful and respectful relationship, they were able to work through Jamir’s challenging situation at home. If not for the established trust of his Big Brother, Jamir would not have had anyone to turn to at this difficult time.

“As a result of his relationship with Jamir, Pat quickly realized the importance of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and the difference it was making in the community,” said Jamie Truelove, Match Support Specialist for Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Pat joined the Board of Directors, and quickly became a strong advocate for our agency.” In 2010, Pat received the Heart of Illinois Big Brother of the Year award for his ongoing promotion and commitment to the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program.

Since Pat received the award in 2010, Pat and Jamir have been featured in radio spots, morning interview shows and a video about the Heart of Illinois agency. Above all, Pat has gone “above and beyond” the standard Big Brother role by helping Jamir to get a scholarship so that he could attend a basketball camp at Kansas University this past summer. “Jamir had an amazing time and was able to develop his basketball skills thanks to Pat’s commitment,” Jamie said.

“I would do anything for Jamir. Jamir is smart, funny, polite and genuinely cares about people. He has become a part of our family,” Pat said.

Sandra Rayford

Sandra was matched with her first Little Sister, Sena, in October 2003, who was just 8 years old at the time. Sena is now a 17-year-old high school senior who will be graduating in just a few months. Sena had a very difficult childhood and grew up in a rough community without a mother figure until Sandra came into her life. “I had a rough childhood; Sandra was there. I had lonely days; she was there. I was bored; she was there. I had questions that I felt nobody would understand; she was there. Not only was she there then, but she is still there now,” Sena said.

For the first six years of the match, Sandra and Sena had a very positive and influential relationship. Sandra introduced her Little Sister to many new places and philosophies many young girls may not get to experience. “Sandra showed me the keys to being a lady: to hold your head high, to pursue your dreams, to be financially stable,” Sena said.

If one Little wasn’t enough, Sandra learned about a new program between Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City and the Kauffman Scholars Foundation, which matches Bigs with high school-aged students. In October 2009, Sandra was matched with Shaquila, who was immediately welcomed into Sandra and Sena’s match relationship. The two little sisters quickly became friends and grew to be very close to one another. As time went on, it became evident that Sandra did not view her relationships with Sena and Shaquila as two separate matches, but as one family unit.

In October 2010, Sandra and her Little Sisters were recognized as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City’s Match of the Month, featured in their Big & Little News, and spoke at the monthly board meeting. “They each took a turn sharing their experiences being matched,” said Tonya Jackson, Match Support Specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City. “It was a nice way to bring things to a close, as Shaquila would be graduating high school the following spring and would no longer be an official part of the match.”

Not only has Sandra been extremely involved and supportive of her two Little Sisters, but she also contributes and promotes the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization as a member of her agency’s Diversity Task Force. The Diversity Task Force strategizes new ways to promote Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City and to establish contact with neighborhood organizations in an effort to recruit more African-American and Hispanic volunteers.

“Sandra is dedicated, consistent, and has made it her goal to put her Little Sisters’ best interests at the forefront of all they do,” Tonya said. “In the midst of fun things, she has made a point to expose them to as many avenues and people as possible to help set them on a successful path in life.”

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If People Knew How Much It Would Change Their Lives

“Are those real people up there?”  Julie was stunned by the question 10-year-old Cassidy just asked her, sitting in the Durham Performing Arts Center for the first time.  Prior to that night, Cassidy had never seen live theater – only movies and television.  That was two years ago, still early in their Big Sister Little Sister relationship, and just the start of many things Cassidy would learn from Julie.

Today, if you ask Cassidy what it means to have a Big like Julie in her life, she will tell you that it’s great to have someone to talk openly with, and to share in her personal interests like sewing, fabrics, arts and crafts, reading, drawing, and swimming.  Big Brothers Big Sisters has provided Cassidy “the opportunity to see and do things I’ve never done before.”  Before meeting Julie, Cassidy was a bit timid.  She had had a couple of other match attempts that didn’t work out.  But the day she met Julie she knew this was different. “I knew she was caring because of her smile,” she says.  Almost three years later Cassidy claims that, because of Julie, she has learned to laugh more, to cook and bake cupcakes, and to believe in herself.

It’s very clear that Cassidy and Julie like to cook together.  Since the start of their relationship, Julie has helped Cassidy become much more responsible for her nutrition and reach her personal weight goals.  On trips to the grocery store, Julie quizzes Cassidy about the content of the foods they are selecting.  Are they starches or proteins? Sugars, fats, or carbohydrates?  How will they help Cassidy fuel her day and maintain her health?   In addition to awareness of nutrition, Cassidy and Julie enjoy exercising together, and on this occasion are hiking in Umstead Park for the first time. “Because of Cassidy, I do things I wouldn’t typically do,” Julie reports.

In addition to enjoying Hairspray at the DPAC, Cassidy and Julie share the Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Night Ball as another of their favorite memories together.  Cassidy was asked to speak at the Ball, sharing her story with many BBBST friends and supporters.  “I would never have had the courage or confidence to speak in front of all those people,” Cassidy states.  But her relationship with Julie has helped her grow both confidence and the necessary skills to speak publically.  This confidence and the impact of their relationship also evidenced itself as Cassidy now takes on roles in her school plays. 

Reflecting on their relationship (her second as a mentor), Julie wishes everyone would step up and be a Big. “There are a thousand reasons people give not to mentor, but there are a million reasons to be a Big,” she says.  The impact of volunteers and supporters will leave its mark on over 1,000 children in the Triangle this year, but still hundreds are on our waiting list hoping to be matched with a caring person like Julie.  Their sister-like relationship allows Julie to share her life and try new things while experiencing the joy of watching Cassidy grow and learn.  Julie is convinced that, “If people knew how much it would change their life, they would leap at the opportunity to become a Big!”

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A Great Mother’s Day … Thanks to DressBarn of Morrisville
Brooke Modlin, BBBST Match Support Specialist
May 17, 2012

This past Saturday, the DressBarn of Morrisville graciously hosted 14 of our Littles along with their mentors to pick out a gift for each of the mothers for Mother’s Day.  Each Little was given a $50 gift card and was able to pick out anything in the store for his/her mother. As if this was not enough, the Dress Barn staff also took a picture of each little and put it in a special “mom” frame for each to give his/her mother along with a goodie bag and red rose. All of the children seemed so excited to browse the store and look for items that they thought that their mothers would enjoy. The Bigs also enjoyed the process of helping their Littles shop and pick out a special item for their moms. The kids left with a goodie bag of treats for themselves, and they were treated to a pizza lunch. The DressBarn staff did not forget about the Bigs either! Each Big received a hand written card letting them know how much they are appreciated for their volunteer efforts and how they make their Littles feel special. I cannot say enough about how kind and helpful the DressBarn staff was and how they made this Mother’s Day a memorable day not only for the moms but also the Littles. I heard a lot of positive feedback throughout the event. Numerous volunteers came up to me and mentioned how nice everything was. Everyone was just expecting the gift card (which was very generous!) but we were all pleasantly surprised by the additional gifts. The match support team has heard much positive feedback from volunteers this week and one volunteer, Ms. Janet, shared this with her match support specialist:

“I thought it was wonderful and so very nice of them- such an amazing gesture….They gave me a card and this is what they wrote ‘We just wanted to share our appreciation for you. Because of you these children know they matter.” Ms. Janet also said, “That card made it all worth it. Saturday was really hectic for me and I ended up driving over 200 miles in order to fit everything in, but to see this card meant so much to me.” Ms. Janet went on to say, “They were so kind and gave my Little a card and snack bag on top of being able to buy her mother a dress.” Quodesh’s mother is trying to find a job and this will be really helpful for her to have a good outfit to interview in.

My Little’s mom also emailed thanking my husband and I for helping Chris pick out a gift for her. She told us that he was so excited when he got home on Saturday afternoon that he could not wait until Sunday to give her the gift, he made her open it immediately!

From my experience and the feedback that we received, the generosity of the DressBarn made this Mother’s Day one of the most special and memorable Mother’s Day for several children and moms in our community. Thank you DressBarn for your commitment to helping others!

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First Post!

Hello to all!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle is thrilled to join the blog world and we look forward to sharing exciting and informative news about our services and initiatives.  We also want to hear from you, such as your experiences as a Big or a parent of a Little – or perhaps you benefited from having a Big when you were a child.  There are many inspirational stories to tell and we’re glad to have this venue to share them.

For the benefit of our new friends and readers, we want to properly introduce ourselves. For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, we  develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 14, in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. We help children realize their potential and build their futures. We nurture children and strengthen communities. And we couldn’t do any of it without you.  Want to learn more?  Interested in becoming a Big?  Know a child who needs a Big?  Visit our website www.BBBSTriangle.org today.

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