“Stephen is a really good example of a caring young man. If Noah ends up being like Stephen, I will be very proud of him.”
“I have always believed that it takes a village to raise a child,” explains Shari, the mother of two children matched in Big Brothers Big Sisters Community-Based Program. Her family first became involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters several years ago when her son, Noah, was 6, and daughter, Maddie, was 8. Their father was absent and she felt it would benefit both of her children to have a mentor whom they could talk to and trust. “You can’t have too many people who care about your kids. I was hoping my children would get to meet people and experience things outside of our circle; anything positive that others can share with my children is wonderful.”
Mary Bernier, Big Sister to Maddie, expresses, “It’s generous of Shari to share her children with us! I feel like it is a win-win situation; our relationship is a gift of time to both of us. I have gained a friend and companion to do things with.” Having lived in the Brunswick community, Mary always knew about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. When her older sister got involved as a mentor a few years ago it peaked her interest. She explains that she was excited and a little nervous about her first time meeting Maddie, but was happy to discover that they were at ease with each other immediately. Maddie, who had a previous successful long-term match, says, “I was nervous, excited and happy. I wanted a Big Sister who was spontaneous, funny, caring and kind – Mary is all of those things!” Mary loves that Maddie is talkative, enthusiastic, sweet, helpful and eager to try anything. “It’s fun to experience new things and grow a relationship,” Maddie adds.
Noah and his Big Brother, Stephen Carter, are celebrating their first match anniversary in March. Like many boys, Noah waited for several years for the right match with a Community-Based Big Brother. Typically, 2/3 of children on Big Brothers Big Sisters’ waiting list are boys, but only 3 out of 10 volunteer inquires come from men. While waiting, Noah enjoyed connections with two Bowdoin student mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bears & Cubs Program on the Bowdoin Campus and had a high school Big in the School-Based Mentoring Program at his elementary school. These were positive connections, though Noah says, “I wanted a dude to hang out with; someone who likes basketball and to go out and do guy things with.”
Stephen grew up in locally with two younger brothers. When he graduated from college and returned to live in Brunswick, he learned about the need for male mentors thought he could have some fun with a child. Shari smiles while describing Noah’s relationship with Stephen, “They are hilarious together. Almost instantly they had a comfortable, at-ease relationship. They enjoy a lot of different activities together and it gives Noah a chance to be exposed to many things.” She loves that Noah gets really excited and anxious for each visit, and that Noah trusts Stephen. “Stephen is really good example of a caring young man. If Noah ends up being like Stephen, I will be very proud of him,” Shari says. “We waited a long time for Stephen and this couldn’t be a more perfect match.”
Stephen initially had some reservations about the time commitment in being a Big Brother. However, once he and Noah started spending time together, Stephen found, “It’s a small amount of time spent making a big difference.” Noah adds, “When you’re having fun with your Big you lose track of time!” Sometimes they spend time together weekly; sometimes their visits are every-other weekend. Stephen and Noah share simple activities like shooting hoops, bowling, riding bikes, playing paintball, videogames and pool. They have also enjoyed the challenge course at Monkey C Monkey Do, a Sea Dogs game and live performances at Maine State Music Theater and Merrill Auditorium. Noah appreciates that he gets to try new things that he wouldn’t get to try without Stephen. Shari loves that Noah can rely on Stephen and that he has a chance to escape and have fun when they are going through a difficult time.
Mary, who has been an elementary school teacher for many years, recently invited Maddie to visit her classroom for a day. “Maddie is a natural with children; my students loved her,” she says with an appreciative smile. Shari feels that it is valuable for Maddie to see Mary’s professional side. “I’m thrilled that Maddie has the opportunity to be with Mary, who is grounded in the community and is a positive role model as a woman, a mom and a teacher.” Additionally, Maddie explains, “sometimes it’s hard to talk about things with my mom. It’s nice to be able to talk to someone else I can trust.” Shari says that she encourages that; “I would prefer that she has a Big to turn to. As these relationships grow, the likelihood of my kids to turn to something less positive diminishes more and more.”
“For my children, it is an extremely enriching program. I would encourage anyone considering becoming a mentor to get involved. There are so many kids in so many situations that would benefit from having a mentor and a friend,” Shari recognizes. Currently, there are 13 boys and 2 girls waiting for the right match with a Community-Based Big Brother or Big Sister. Volunteers in this program are 18 and older and make an initial commitment of one year to sharing time and building a friendship with a child. To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit their office at 85 Maine Street in Brunswick, online at www.bbbsbathbrunswick.org or call 729-7736.