A Powerful Impact – Heather’s Story

I want to tell you about an awesome organization that has had a powerful impact on my family – Big Brothers Big Sisters.  My children’s Dad passed away when Robyn and Ryan were just 5 and 6 years old.  It goes without saying that was very difficult period for all of us.  My children had a hard time adjusting the loss of their father – especially my son Ryan. As a single mom I was very concerned about them and wanted to make sure they had the right influences and role models in their lives. I was only vaguely aware of Big Brothers Big Sisters but had a friend who volunteered there and he suggested I look into the program. He explained how it worked and assured me that the screening process would ensure a completely safe environment for my children. After meeting with BBBS I decided I would register both Ryan and Robyn as “littles”.  They warned me that it could take a long time for them to get matched with a “Big” but that there were a number of different activities the children participated in while they worked on a Match so I thought it might be fun for them.  Turns out it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Through BBBS, my kids were involved in all kinds of events such as Bowl for Kids Sake, a number of Picnics/BBQ’s, Science Camps at MUN, plays at the Arts and Culture centre. Ryan and Robyn were also the hosts of the Celebrity Secrets show (which I think helped foster Ryan’s dream of becoming a comedian!!). They were also selected by BBBS to attend Tim Horton’s Children’s Camp.

Robyn was fortunate and was matched pretty quickly with a Big Sister.  Actually she ended up with two Big Sisters over a period of 4 years and loved all the “girl time” she got to spend with her sisters – such as shopping, baking and doing crafts.

Ryan was another story.  Unfortunately there is a shortage of male volunteers.  While Ryan enjoyed all the extra benefits of BBBS, he really wanted a Big – and asked me why he simply couldn’t just ask someone to be his.  I told him that it is such an important job that BBBS made wanted to be extra sure they found him a good match but it was hard as there weren’t a lot of Big Brothers out there.  Well Ryan decided to help them along with that – he wrote a letter to the editor of The Telegram explaining that he had been waiting a long time and just wanted to someone to hang out with and maybe go to movies. He wondered if someone could please, please be his Big Brother.  Well – it worked!  It took over three years but he finally got matched. What a day that was! I will never forget that phone call.  I was completely overwhelmed that it was finally happening – but my reaction was nothing compared to Ryan’s.

Then we met Andrew, and all I can say was that the wait was worth it.  Andrew was the youngest in his family and was always “the little brother”.  He said he had always wanted to be the bigger brother – and when he read Ryan’s letter he knew that this was his chance to do it. I can’t begin to tell you the difference Andrew made in Ryan’s life.  Without a doubt he helped my son become the wonderful young man he is today.  Although their match closed when Ryan turned 18, and Andrew now has his own young family, they are still friends to this day.

Having seen the amazing benefits of the BBBS organization, I had always thought that one day, once my own children were grown, that I too would become a “Big” in hopes of having a positive influence on a child.  Just this year I became involved with the In-School Mentoring Program and was matched with Kyleigh.  She is a wonderful young girl and I look forward to our meetings every week.  It is such an incredible feeling to think that I may be as positive an influence in her life as Andrew was with Ryan’s.

Former Parent and Mentor – Heather Hanlon