Category Archives: Match Stories
Guest Blog Post By: Erica Brien, Enrollment & Matching Specialist
On Sunday, September 15, I had the chance to join five Big and Little Sister matches at Big Sister’s “Come Sail Away” event, the final sailing event of the season. We met at Pier 6 in Charlestown before boarding “Tupelo Honey,” a boat owned by Legal Seafoods’ Director of Communication Ann Flannery and her beau, Captain Don.
“This is the happy bell,” Capt. Don informed us as we boarded Tupelo Honey. “Every time we hear a happy word, we’ll ring the happy bell.”
As the matches got comfortable on the boat, they went around in a circle to introduce themselves. One match explained that they’d been together for 16 months, another match for just about a year. The next two matches had been together since the beginning of 2012.
“We’ve been together for 14 years,” Marisa, the final Big Sister said.
Jaws dropped. Sounds of the happy bell rang in the air. “Fourteen years!” the entire boat exclaimed simultaneously.
“We were matched when Susanne was six years old, and she is turning twenty at the end of this month,” said Marisa as she turned to Susanne and smiled. “So this will be our final Big Sister event.”
Marisa and Susanne have been together since Marisa was in college, and now Susanne is a sophomore in college herself. They have experienced a number of milestones together: Marisa’s college graduation, wedding and the start of her family. They have been matched through Susanne’s most formative years, elementary school, middle school, and high school, and Marisa has even been able to celebrate Susanne’s acceptance to Boston College.
She put her arms around her Little Sister. “And just because we won’t technically be Big Sister and Little Sister,” she smiled at Susanne, “we’ll still be good friends.”
The winds were steady and strong, blowing us out to Castle Island. On our return into the harbor, Jaelin, the youngest Little Sister onboard Tupelo Honey, grabbed the helm of the ship and guided us as we made our way back towards the dock. Confident, Jaelin shared stories as she moved the wheel back and forth.
Each of us had the chance to sit on the bow of the boat and stare into the city. We watched as an orange butterfly skimmed the water, and we chatted about whatever subjects came to mind. We disembark Tupelo Honey feeling optimistic about the morning and what the rest of our Sunday may have had to offer. We became inspired by a story of a positive, trusting relationship built through years of dedication and commitment, inspired by the power of human connection and the possibilities of establishing life-long friendships with a Big or Little Sister.
On Friday, May 25, 100 Big and Little Sisters attended the Red Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park, thanks to a ticket donation from Highland Street Foundation. Because of Highland Street’s generosity, all 50 matches received t-shirts, hats, water bottles, The Red Sox Century books, and food vouchers, along with tickets to the game. The donation enabled many Little Sisters to attend their first ever professional baseball game, including Little Sister Sequoia, who visited Fenway Park for the first time last Friday.
Big Sister Rebecca and Little Sister Sequoia have been matched for nearly one year, and in that time they have gotten to know each other really well. They’re comfortable being themselves around one another and enjoy spending time together just talking. They’ve also participated in many interesting activities, including bicycling in the Arnold Arboretum and making Valentines and cookies for Sequoia’s class. “Sequoia and I are both a mix of artistic, crafty, and outdoorsy, which is great,” said Big Sister Rebecca. Little Sister Sequoia’s favorite outing prior to Friday’s Sox game was when she and Rebecca visited the indoor trampoline park, SkyZone. Sequoia said, “We did crazy flips! Even off the wall!”
Rebecca and Sequoia were thrilled to be able to attend the May 25 baseball game. Sequoia got very excited, especially when she and Rebecca walked into the park and she saw Fenway for the first time. “The game was really cool and we were in really cool seats,” said Sequoia. “I could see the bullpen!”
Rebecca and Sequoia loved being able to share this experience with one another. “My Little Sister thought it was a fun activity to do together because I know a lot about baseball and could tell her about it,” Rebecca said. “I especially liked to see how excited she got about the baseball she received from Tampa Bay Ray Fernando Rodney. Sequoia also made friends with another Little Sister, which made the event even more fun!”
Big Sister Association would like to thank Highland Street Foundation for their generous donation!
Little Sister Molly:
It all started on April 12, 2012 when I got the phone call from my Big Sister Alex. She told me that she had BIG news, very big news! She said that we were going to the Boston Celtics game on April 24 and I was going to be a ball kid. I would also get to sit on the court, get a free tee shirt, meet some of the players, and get a signed ball! I was so excited! It was the best news I’ve ever heard. I told all of my friends and they were so happy for me. I couldn’t wait to go to the game, I was counting down the days! But then all the waiting was over and the day finally came.
On the exciting day of April 24, we arrived in Boston to see the Celtics game, but first we got dinner at Halftime Pizza. The place had great food, a mural of famous Boston sports players, and overall a fun atmosphere. Then it was time. We headed over to The Celtics office, which was very well decorated. We saw championship trophies and we took tons of pictures. We met the Community Relationships Coordinator, Ashley. She escorted us to the world famous TD Garden and we took a secret entrance into the building. When we finally saw the court I was AMAZED, I couldn’t believe it! I saw the banners, the Jumbotron, and then I saw the best 3-point shooter in NBA history: Ray Allen! Then Ashley introduced me to the Ball Kid Staff, and I started practicing with the team. I was passing and getting rebounds off of Rajon Rondo! It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done! I met #51 Dooling, and he was my favorite player that I met. Then it was game time. The teams we were playing, the Miami Heat was ready to play. During the first half, the Celtics were down, but not out. I got to sit on the court and the camera was on me the whole time! I got to be on TV! During halftime I got to practice with the Miami Heat! It was another important highlight of the night. When the second quarter started, the Celtics made an unexpected comeback and ended up winning by 12 points! It was such a fun night I loved every minute of it. I feel so lucky to have been a ball kid for a night and go to a Celtics game with my Big Sister!
Big Sister Alex:
When I got the news that Molly was going to have an opportunity to be a ball kid, I was so thrilled for her! It reminded me of when I was her age and had the opportunity to go to a UConn game. I really looked up to players like Jenn Rizzoti and Kara Walters. Going to get my basketball signed by them was a highlight of my childhood years and I felt lucky be able to share an experience like this with my Little Sister. She did such a wonderful job being the ball kid! She hustled to get rebounds and pass the balls to the players. She made me so proud out there! The entire experience was wonderful to have and something I can truly say neither one of us will forget.
We’d like to thank the Celtics Ticket Exchange for giving Little Sister Molly a chance to have this wonderful experience. If you are a company or individual who would like to make a ticket donation, please contact our Program Events Coordinator, Jen Gentile at email@example.com or (617) 236-8366.
Big Sister Amanda Martinez and Little Sister Mickaella share why they believe in the power of mentoring. Amanda, a former Little Sister herself, was named a 2011 Ignite Award winner at Youth Mentoring Day at the State House. Thanks so much to Mass Mentoring Partnership and Conover Tuttle Pace for creating this piece and helping us highlight the impact mentoring can have on a young girl’s life.
Big Sister Amanda Martinez was named the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.
Amanda Martinez had a Big Sister when she was younger and always wanted to return the favor. When she moved to Boston she became a Big Sister and has been matched with Mickaella, a middle school student, since January 2008. They enjoy doing arts and crafts, learning about new cultures, meeting new people or trying new foods and being active in the summer rock climbing, rollerblading, bike riding, and swimming.
Amanda loves being a Big Sister because “it gives me the opportunity to have a positive impact in a young girl’s life and to learn about other people’s life experiences.” She also believes that “it is important for girls today to have positive female mentors because there is a lot of negative messaging that is pinpointed towards girls and having a mentor gives a young girl an opportunity to concentrate on what she has to offer on the inside.”
Mickaella loves having a Big Sister because “it is like having an automatic friend. Without my Big Sister I would not know how much fun it is to eat Indian food or that I am smarter than I think I am. Amanda has also helped me learn that there is more to life if you look at it from a different point of view.”
Mass Mentoring Partnership recently published a great guest post by Big Sister Lindsay Snyder, Director of External Relations & Development at the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA), on why she become a mentor:
A few months ago, while eating lunch at a T.G.I. Friday’s with Destyne, my Little from the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston program, she asked me why I chose to become a mentor. We were about to dig into the “Brownie Obsession,” this ridiculously delicious, dense sundae, when I said, “Well, because I was so fortunate to have so many mentors in my life, I wanted to be on the other side and give back…plus, you’re fun to be around and I’ve learned a lot from YOU.”
When I decided to become a mentor, I originally thought about it in terms of “paying it forward.” I have been blessed with several strong female mentors in my life, including my grandmother, mother and three women I used to work with at the Crittenton Women’s Union. I learned acceptance and forgiveness from my grandmother, strength and perseverance from my mother, and how to be a dedicated, passionate advocate for nonprofits from my former colleagues.
Now that I’ve been a mentor for two years, I think about the things – little and big – that I’ve learned from my Little – most of all, she keeps me in check. You need that when life gets hectic.
“So what’s the name of our cooking show?” Big Sister Jessica Sedaca asks as low-calorie chocolate cookies bake in the oven of her Brighton apartment.
“Cooking with Jess and Lex,” Little Sister Alexis giggles.
Jessica and Alexis, or Jess and Lexie as they prefer to be called, were matched last July in a move that Lexie calls destiny. Jess joked that she is an older version of her Little Sister as they have so much in common, including a love of theater, musicals, movies, and food.
“I remember meeting [Jess],” says10-year old Lexie. “I was so excited. [Our Big Sister staff social worker] Mikki came into my house and said ‘Your Big Sister is outside’. I felt like I wanted to scream and I think I did.”
“I remember walking to her house and there were kids outside playing everywhere and all of a sudden someone is dashing towards me,” says Jess. “She gave me a big hug immediately and I said to myself ‘I can get along with this girl.’”
The cooking show idea began very simply. Jess loves to bake and recalls enjoying the time she spent in the kitchen with her older relatives as a child. She thought it would be a great way for the pair to bond. After their first recipe, a lush coffee cake, the two decided they should have theme nights. They would watch “Bend it Like Beckham” and make chicken curry or “Ratatouille” and prepare the eponymous dish.
Through their exploration of different foods and activities, Jess discovered Lexie’s fearlessness when it comes to new experiences. ”I love trying new things!” proclaims Lexie. With her Big Sister, she has found that she loves quinoa which is “yummy,” “The Princess Bride” and art museums, to name a few. They chat about the future, learning new languages and world travel. Jess turned Lexie on to the idea of visiting Europe one day. Lexie is particularly fascinated by Greece “because of the mythology.”
Over the course of their relationship, Jess has been amazed at how her Little Sister embraces life every day. Lexie relishes the simple things and reminds Jess to slow down and appreciate everyday pleasures.
“I’ve never seen anyone eat a Klondike bar with such abandon and joy… But she’s also taught me compassion.”
In her spare time, Little Sister Lexie raises money to create gift baskets for veterans at the VA Hospital where her mother works. She fills them with small gifts and homemade cards. She then delivers her creations with the openness and joy with which she greets life in general. The recipients are sometimes speechless, sometimes moved to tears, but always happy for the random act of kindness.
“She’s a great role model,” Jess says of her Little Sister. “You could be 26, 56, or 86 and learn so much from her.”
After giving her Big Sister a hug in appreciation at these words, Lexie counters that Jess has taught her how to be a better person. She also advises women thinking about becoming a Big Sister to do it:
“It’s so wonderful getting to find your perfect match.”
Guest Post by Big Sister Alicia Carlson
(Originally posted on Alicia’s person blog, here.)
I was first exposed to Big Sister Association of Greater Boston by my friend, Annette, who has been a mentor for a few years. I really admire her commitment and the bond she shares with her Little Sister. During Annette’s 4th of July cookout last year, I met her Little Sister Sabrina’s 14-year-old sister, Maliha. We got along really well – we spent the day swimming, playing games, and talking about her teenage world. So where was her Big Sister? Turns out Maliha was on a waiting list to be matched.
Over the following weeks, I gave it some thought. Although I wasn’t enrolled in a Big Sister program as a teen, I had a wonderful mentor who happened to fall into my life. (Or maybe I fell into hers…) She made such a significant, positive impact. She listened to me vent about my teenage frustrations, helped me through some particularly scary situations, taught me about Internet safety, and even set me up on a blind date with a co-worker’s son so I could attend my junior prom. And she continued to help me through college, and wasn’t because I pursued the same career path! Although we don’t talk often now, I’ll always remember what she did for me.
I picked up the phone, called Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, and made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Maliha and I were matched as Big/Little Sisters last November, and have been having a blast ever since. We’ve gone hiking, watched movies, baked, and took a day trip to Rockport. She did well in school this year, decided to join student council, and got accepted into a prestigious local children’s chorus – I’m pretty proud of her.
I have to share the Facebook message Maliha sent when she found out about the match last November:
“Hey , Guess what ? I heard the BIGGEST news in the whole wide world . . . Were gunna become Sisters! Man, I am the happiest person on earth !”
So this year, on September 24th, I will bike 25 miles (maybe 50 if training goes well!) with the Big Sisters team in the Rodman Ride For Kids. All money raised will help this wonderful organization support matches like Maliha and I, and help recruit more volunteers for the kids still on their waiting list. I’m really excited about this ride, but I am going to need your help. My goal is to raise $1,000 for the Big Sisters team. While everyone is in different financial situations, I hope to get 100% participation. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. Please follow this link to my fundraising page. Thanks for your support!
Big Sisters of Greater Boston has a number of ways you can volunteer– be a Big for a Day, volunteer at a school, or become a Community Based Mentor. There are currently over 250 girls and young women waiting to be matched.
Father Daniel Collins Speaks about His Daughter Aoife’s Friendship with Big Sister Leigh
Appassionata, enlightened, and revealing: the three words Daniel Collins uses to describe his daughter Aiofe, her Big Sister Leigh Doherty, and their relationship.
When Aoife (pronounced “ee-fa”) first started kindergarten after moving to Boston from New York with her father, Daniel Collins, she knew there was something different about her family. She was one of the few children in her class in a single-parent household and perhaps the only child who did not live with her mother.
Seeing the impact this was having on his daughter, Daniel reached out to Big Sister in 2009. While he had been co-parenting Aoife with a close friend, Amelia Stiles, he recognized that his daughter yearned for additional female influences in her life. In wanting a Big Sister for his daughter, he wasn’t looking for a replacement for her mother, who currently resides in Augusta, Maine. Rather he wanted to expand the network of adults who could help guide her through childhood.
Daniel, an only child himself, thinks back to his youth surrounded by his father’s large family in western Massachusetts. He remembers his Uncle Jimmy Collins who had been a major influence on him, with much fondness. “It’s one of those things that you carry with you for the rest of your life.” He wanted his daughter to enjoy and benefit from this type of relationship with a caring adult. Big Sister Leigh Doherty, who Daniel describes as “enlightened,” has certainly fit the bill.
“Leigh fills a role that no one else in our circle could,” says Daniel. Her relationship with his daughter is very different from those Aoife has with him, Amelia and Aoife’s mother. Leigh is more like a “favorite aunt,” which is exactly what he was looking for.
Daniel admits that two years ago there had been several rocky moments for his non-traditional family. He is grateful for the ways in which Leigh acted as ballast for Aoife through those tough times.
“It would be difficult to overstate how important it was for Aoife to have a friend like Leigh to whom she could talk during those stressful days. I suppose that every family goes through such occasional periods of uncertainty. But for a child in that situation, having one reliable friend providing emotional continuity and stability … can make all the difference between “one of those unpleasant things we all have to go through” and “a full-blown emotional disaster.” Leigh’s handling of the situation as it developed was careful, effective and, most importantly, always directed at Aoife’s best interests… So three cheers for Leigh.”
In the two years since they’ve been matched, Leigh has helped reveal the qualities and strengths that he knew his daughter had in her, but wasn’t sure would get the chance to emerge. When asked to describe Aoife, Daniel chose appassionata, an Italian word, because “an English word just won’t do” to sum her up. “She’s a very warm-hearted person” he says. “She has the soul of an artist.”
He notes that she is very perceptive to the feelings and motivations of others, a talent that she has started to channel into theater. At 11, he’s seeing that she is really starting to come into her own. As he watches her confidence bloom, Daniel credits Leigh with helping foster these positive changes.
“My daughter is my hope for the future, my reason for getting up in the morning… so it’s wonderful to see.”
* Happy Father’s Day to Daniel and all the fathers in Big Sister’s Community.
For many couples who are about to tie the knot, the toughest part of planning their wedding is deciding who to invite. For Leslee Parker, 29, a Big Sister with Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, and Jon Sproul, 33, a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, there were two guests who had to be there to make their special day complete.
Leslee asked her Little Sister 13-year old Aleysia of Cambridge to be her “Sister of Honor” and Jon asked his Little Brother 17-year old Bryant of Dorchester to be his “Brother of Honor” in their wedding which occurred Saturday May 21, 2011 at St. Thomas Chapel in Falmouth Heights.
“Once we decided we wanted to be married, we decided we wanted them in the wedding,” Jon said last week. “They’re such an important part of our lives, like family.”
Bryant and Aleysia walked down the aisle with bridesmaids and groomsmen as part of the ceremony, joined the wedding party for pictures and were announced into the wedding reception at the Falmouth Yacht Club as “the Little Brother of Honor and the Little Sister of Honor.”
The couple, originally from Barnstable but now living in the North End, has been serving as mentors to their Littles for a combined ten years. Jon, who works for Boston Public Schools, was first matched with Bryant, now a senior at Monument High School, in November 2005. Seeing her then boyfriend’s relationship with Bryant, Leslee was inspired to become a Big Sister where she could provide nurturing guidance and support to a young girl. She was matched with Aleysia, an 8th grade student at the Martin Luther King School, in January 2007.
When asked about her match experience in 2008, Leslee remarked that it defied all her original expectations and that she looked forward to her friendship with Aleysia “growing for years to come”. Indeed it has as Aleysia joined the bride and her bridesmaids as they rode to the chapel in their limousine on the day of the ceremony.
Deborah Re, CEO of Big Sister Association, notes that such stories of Littles being part of their Bigs’ wedding are fairly common.
“The bonds that develop between “Bigs” and “Littles” tend to move quickly into strong, long-lasting friendships. With matches that span years like Leslee and Jon’s, Bigs get to watch their Littles grow up and often become like family.”
According to Wendy Foster, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, this is the first wedding she knows of where both the bride’s and groom’s “Littles” are participating.
* Congratulations to Big Sister Leslee and Little Sister Aleysia who also just celebrated their 4th match anniversary.