July '17 Not for profit

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brother Art, Little Brother Freddie. Photo by Claire Selius.

My Little Brother Logan and I were matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) in 2012 when Logan was 10 and a few years after I had retired. Logan and two cousins were living with their devoted, beloved grandmother JoAnn when we met. They lost JoAnn three years ago, and Logan has shown great resilience since, through three moves and school changes. He finished his first year of high school recently, and fortunately has lived with a committed, caring foster family for the past two years.

BBBS has been a constant in their lives. Logan’s older cousin has been a “Little” for several years, and his younger cousin was just matched with a Big Sister. Foster mother Alice said, “The program has helped the kids form friendships, learn different things and improve their self-esteem.”

Tampa Bay Rays Right Fielder, Steven Souza Jr. with little Brothers and Sisters.
Tampa Bay Rays Right Fielder, Steven Souza Jr. with little Brothers and Sisters.

Through BBBS, Logan and I have attended Rays, Bucs, Lightning and USF Bulls games; bowled with Bucs players, and even met Evan Longoria. Logan has caught passes from Mike Alstott. We’ve sailed, fished and kayaked; worked out, swam and played basketball; and toured the Tampa Police Department. We’ve met with high school ROTC and St. Petersburg College student loan directors to discuss possible future opportunities. We’ve been to children’s and railroad museums, Comic-Con and many IMAX and superhero movies.

It has been an inspiration to see how Logan has persevered and even thrived through many challenges. He is on track and committed to finishing high school, and very conscious of the link between a strong education and a rewarding career.

He has completed the driver’s education program and looks forward to finding a part-time job next year at 16.

In short, Logan is doing well due to his positive attitude and growing confidence, as well as support from his foster family, relatives and friends, educators, and organizations including BBBS. I see his emphasis on giving rather than receiving at Christmas and birthdays, his concern for animals and his curiosity about his Native American heritage. I’m encouraged by his rejection of bad habits, choice of responsible friends and mature views on school rivalries and dramas. I’ve learned about zombies and Internet memes from Logan. So much has changed since my kids were his age, but the Marvel characters are still going strong.

We get together monthly, less frequently now than we did before, with me in St. Pete and Logan in Tampa, and with his many peer activities at age 15. I’m fortunate to remain a sounding board and supporter of Logan’s efforts. Whatever Logan does, I bet he will be helping others. He has already helped me with my retirement goals of trying new things and having a positive impact.

Asked what he has liked about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Logan said, “It has helped me be a better person.” The time commitment to be a “Big” is not heavy at eight hours a month, and BBBS does a wonderful job of planning events offering exercise, learning, entertainment and interactions with other kids. BBBS also provides training and ongoing discussion groups, works with volunteers to find appropriate matches, monitors activity at least monthly, and is always available to provide advice and direction.

Left, Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward hosted a BBBS tour of his department. Center, Little Brother Logan and right, Big Brother and Green Bench Monthly Contributor, Andy Bragg.Left, Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward hosted a BBBS tour of his department. Center, Little Brother Logan and right, Big Brother and Green Bench Monthly Contributor, Andy Bragg.

There are about a thousand active matches in Pinellas County, and Nehemiah Warner, a BBBS of Tampa Bay director, said BBBS is excited about the growth in downtown St. Pete: “We know this growth means that we are able to share our mission with more great local residents and get them to mentor right where they live. With more volunteers we can make a greater impact on St. Pete and we are thrilled about that!”

Littles range from 5 to 19 years old, and Bigs are roughly five percent retirees. The match commitment is open ended. They hope matches will last at least 15 months in the community-based program Logan and I are in, and 12 months in the site-based program in which matches meet at schools. Many matches last through the Littles’ high school years and beyond.

Big Sister Kim, Little Sister Delaney. Taken at Vinoy Park. Photo by Claire Selius.
Big Sister Kim, Little Sister Delaney. Taken at Vinoy Park. Photo by Claire Selius.

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Pinellas and Hillsborough County operations merged two years ago into BBBS Tampa Bay, to improve scale and also to leverage activities across the two counties. The Pinellas office is in Largo and you can visit www.bbbstampabay.org to learn how to become a BBBS volunteer or to match up your child.

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