All credit and excerpts from this story go to Cathy Pelletier and Niagara This Week. Article published Friday, January 28th, 2005.
When 10-year old Daniel Sutherland of Thorold met Jeremy Smalley, it was a Big day for both of them.
“The only boy in the family.” according to his single mother, Nancy, and an only child. Daniel says he was lonely before meeting his Big Brother. “After my father passed away, I felt Daniel needed a good male role model,” says Nancy. “I knew (Big Brothers Big Sisters) had a good reputation.”
Jeremy finds it rewarding watching Daniel grow up: being his “father figure.”
“We have taken to each other greatly,” says Jeremy. “It can be as simple as taking the dog for a walk. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive.”
"Working in a juvenile detention centre, I see a lot of kids who don't necessarily have positive role models and I see the bad choices they make. I really wanted to influence someone who's at that critical stage."
“It’s great to hear how we affect their lives.” says CEO, Dale Davis. “We have an army of volunteers who are the backbone of this agency.”
Jeremy, who sometimes accompanies Daniel on school trips, says Daniel often asks “What’s going to happen to me when I turn 16? Are you going to say goodbye?”.
“Daniel’s great. It’s a lifetime experience. I don’t plan on ending it.” says Jeremy.
As part of our 80 in 80 campaign, we spoke to Phoenix Norris, and her mother, Julia. Phoenix has been a “Little” with our agency for over half of her life, and she has recently begun to branch out into public speaking. A topic that is close to Phoenix’s heart is instilling confidence in young women, which she had the privilege to do at the Women Economic Forum in New Delhi, India in May 2017. We spoke to Phoenix and Julia to find out how that opportunity first came about, and what has inspired Phoenix along the way.
A Big was sought for my son Aly as he did not have regular, consistent involvement with his dad. Aly does have two older brothers both embarking on careers and marriages. Aly was very close to the second eldest and felt abandoned when he left home. To add to that, we had to move too (Aly was three at the time). Aly did not speak until he was past three years old and experiences behaviour problems. Aly did not initiate any conversations and when he was spoken to; he spoke in a soft voice, never made eye contact, or used one or two word responses. Aly was in the care of a psychiatrist until recently to try to resolve some of these issues. In January of this year, the doctor noticed a great change in Aly, so-much-so that he no longer wants to see him. He asked what had attributed so significantly to this change. We acknowledged Aly’s involvement in the Big Brother program and he whole-heartedly agreed.
Aly’s marks have climbed, and he looks forward to showing William his achievements and his grades. Aly now initiates conversations. William always encourages Aly.
I have found that I now have time to myself to do something or absolutely nothing.
What I have noticed of late, the pride and confidence that Aly exhibits in all aspects of his life. The most significant milestone is that I no longer have to field questions about his father’s lack of concern or care for him (William has never disappointed Aly).
Aly is a very caring and compassionate little boy, and we couldn’t have asked for a better match in William. This was initiated with the caseworker while Aly was on the waiting list. The caseworker spends time with the Littles and this allows him to have insight into their character and personality which matches such as Aly and William’s so successfully!
All credit and excerpts for this story goes to Don Fraser and The St. Catharines Standard.
Darcy Ewanchuk first met her Little Sister Rebecca in 1999, when Rebecca was a shy nine-year old girl. Rebecca had just been matched with Darcy by our agency.
It didn’t take long for the two to relax and click – “Big and Little” would check out local attractions, go shopping and walk Darcy’s dogs. Over the years, Darcy watched Rebecca’s confidence blossom.
"She has turned into a wonderful young woman. She has received and achievement award from the Optimist Club and also got a citizenship award at school"
Darcy has been a Big Sister for nearly 20 years at our agency and has been a Big Sister to many girls who have gone through our programs.
"I do think I had a positive influence on them. I also tried to impress on all the girls how important it is to give back to the community. When the matches have ended, they become part of my family. They go on, do their thing and we catch up every couple of months and on special occasions." - Darcy
"Darcy is a really good Big Sister. When we were matched, I was happy because I had someone else to talk to. It's a really good program." - Rebecca
"Darcy is a really good Big Sister. When we were matched, I was happy because I had someone else to talk to. It's a really good program." - Rebecca
Rebecca’s mother, Barbara, has only the highest of praise for Darcy.
"From the first time I met Darcy, there was something about her. I couldn't have asked for a better person." - Rebecca's mother, Barbara
So it all began a little over a year ago. Isabelle was so excited when she found out a match was found for her. And oh what a match it was! These two girls were made for each other, I swear! They both showed up wearing cute floral dresses, and the excitement of meeting each other was mutual. The first instinct Isabelle had was to hug Kelsey. This was huge as Isabelle usually takes some time to warm up to people. I could tell right away that they were a match made in heaven.
Since these two have met, they have discovered just how much they have in common. They love to dress up, yet love adventure and action. Their favorite thing to do is go to playgrounds, whether it be a park, or indoor playground. They also both love doing crafts.
Kelsey has become a very important person in both of our lives. She has come through for Isabelle when nobody else has. Her presence has been so special to both Isabelle and I. We have had our own celebrations on holidays. She has shown up for all of Isabelle’s birthdays.
She communicates with Isabelle on Facebook. Isabelle has always felt like Kelsey was a real sister. The love these two share is so genuine and real. Kelsey has gone above and beyond in her role as Big Sister. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match. I cant wait to see what the future brings! It has been so amazing watching the bond they share grow over this past year. I know it will only continue to grow stronger. We are forever grateful to this wonderful program.
This story is a personal account and recommendation from former Principal of Connaught Public School, Mr. D. Walls!
I am writing in support of the “In-School Mentoring” Program sponsored by Big Brothers and Sisters of St. Catharines- Thorold and District.
This program is a tremendous support for the children at Connaught Public School. During my four year tenure as Principal of this building this program has served some thirty socially “at risk” children. We had fifteen of our students involved with nine in-school mentors.
The purpose of program is to support the children in the school setting; as well as provide positive social interaction for the students in an “out of classroom” venue. In all situations the mentors work in partnership with the staff of the school.
Although it is often difficult to measure the impact of programs such as this, I can tell you that the children look forward to the opportunity to meet and interact with their mentor. In fact, we have a waiting list of children wishing to be involved. The positive results are found in the improved behavior and academic success of the students in the program.
The “In-School Mentoring” program has been, an excellent opportunity for secondary school students to be involved with their community. This has a benefit for teenagers seeking co-op experience and a chance to collect their community service hours as required by the Ministry of Education. I have been very impressed with the quality of mentors provided by Big Brothers and Sisters. I highly recommend this agency. Their leadership and monitoring of the program has been essential and the communication and support provided exemplary.
Again, I give my unqualified endorsement for this program. Your financial assistance will ensure that it continues to support our school-aged children.
Dan Weatherall, of St. Catharines, has been a Big Brother since 2003 and sees it as a way to give back to the community and make a difference.
“I’ve been matched with Cody since he was nine and he is 17 now. I’ve watched him grow up for lack of a better way to say it. He’s off to college this year.
“What you are doing one-on-one is making a difference in a child’s life. I’ve always been a big believer in mentoring. In life we all need mentors.
“You are changing individuals one-on-one. It’s giving kids a chance that a lot of them don’t have based on their family dynamic.”
Weatherall said his relationship with Cody has changed over the years.
“We used to see each other twice a week. Then it was once a week. Now that we are older, and I have my own children, we find that meeting for lunch works really well.”
He would recommend Big Brothers and Big Sisters to anyone.
“You are making an immediate change in someone’s life. It’s not like we are giving to some charity that is across Canada. This has an effect right in our community. It’s a person who will one day have a job in our community giving something back.”
CJ has been involved in our agency in a variety of ways, going above and beyond to assist the agency in our quest for additional funding to support our programs.
CJ was a member of our Ambassador Program. Launched in 2012, the Ambassador Program gave children and mentors in our programs the opportunity to tell their story at our Special Events, third party events and to our media partners to give members of the community a glimpse into the work that we do, and how rewarding it is to be a part of mentorship. CJ had been media trained by the CEO and PR Officer and has contributed her voice to local newspaper articles, television spots and radio interviews to spread the word about our programs. She has also presented at several service clubs to add impact to monetary asks for our programs.
In January 2013, CJ was a guest speaker at our Niagara Regional Tim Hortons Bowl for Kids Sake Media Launch. She was introduced by Niagara Chief of Police Jeff McGuire and spoke candidly about her experiences as a Little Sister. Many local media representatives and major sponsors were in attendance.
In October 2013, CJ was selected as a representative of our agency to take part in a “Take A Little to Legislature Day” at Queens Park, Toronto. She was paired with MPP Monique Taylor who is the NPD Child and Youth Critic. CJ spent the day with Ms. Taylor and was the MC for the “Little’s Panel” at the Queen’s Park Reception that evening. She was responsible for introducing the other Little’s from across the province in attendance and asking them questions about their experiences with their Big.
For everything you did for our agency, CJ, we say a BIG thank you! Thank you for going above and beyond, and being a model ambassador of our agency 🙂
From the words of Ellen, sister-in-law to Big Brother, Tim:
My brother in law Tim lives in St. Catharines. He has been a big brother to a boy named Robbie since Robbie was 6 years old. Robbie has been a part of Tim’s family for all of these years. Robbie had a learning disability and epilepsy. Needless to say, he did not have the greatest luck in life until Tim walked into it.
Robbie and Tim have stayed very close as he got older. Robbie has become part of Tim’s family. Tim has a wife Dianne and two children. Tim has always been there for Robbie through troubled times in his life, school, and helping him through job interviews. Tim has been a great role model for this boy.
Eventually Robbie moved to London, Ontario yet they still kept in touch and seeing each other whenever possible. About 2 weeks ago, Robbie took ill. Tim and his family had been on vacation and returned to a message saying that Robbie was very ill and that he had been asking for Tim. When Tim contacted the family he was told that Robbie has stomach cancer and was given 2 weeks to 2 months to live. When Tim and Robbie spoke, he asked for him to come right away. Tim made the arrangements that he needed and off he went to London.
Over the past week, Tim has been with Robbie almost every day. Robbie was afraid to die and Tim was the one who talked with him to give him the comfort and support that he needed.
On Monday, Tim receive a call from Robbie’s mom telling him that Robbie would be leaving soon and for Tim to come to the hospital. Tim left St. Catharines right away and went to the hospital. Tim was with Robbie when he passed.
I think that Tim epitomizes all that the Big Brothers Big Sisters stands for. He was a positive influence in this boy’s life and was with him until he died. I want you to share this story with other big brothers so that they can see how important the commitment is that they make.
I think that what Tim was able to do for Robbie is wonderful. Robbie left this world with the greatest feeling of all, love, from a man in his life that never let him down.
The work of our ISM program would not be possible without the dedicated youth counsellors we work with at the DSBN. One such counsellor, Laurie Ianetti, has been a long-time partner of ours, and has seen many at-risk children and youth benefit from the program.
“I have worked in alternative education sites, as well as secondary and elementary schools. It has been my job to work with school staff to identify the need for mentors within a school. “
Laurie agrees that the ISM program is one of the most effective early response programs in Niagara for creating a positive, healthy environment for mentored youth.
“I am so pleased and grateful for the work that Big Brothers Big Sisters does in schools to match students to appropriate mentors. They spend such a good deal of time training the mentors and matching students. The mentoring program is one of the best programs that I have access to within the community to work with children. “
Mentored youth graduate at a higher rate, are absent less often in school, utilize social assistance at a lower rate, engage less in risky and delinquent behaviours than non-mentored youth, thereby becoming positive contributors to our communities.
“There are positive changes in a child’s behaviour as a result of their match. Children who are matched look forward to their time with their mentors each week and are sad when their time is over. Almost always a child asked to be re-matched the following year.”
And sometimes, they do get re-matched.
“I have seen many noteworthy positive changes in children as a result of their mentor match. Most recently there is a boy in grade 6 who was matched last year and his mentor returned this year. The time they spend together each week is the highlight of this boy’s week. The positive changes we have noticed are no doubt a direct result of the time that Mr. Jim spends with him.”
Laurie thanks the talented Mentoring Coordinators at Big Brothers Big Sisters for making her job that much easier.
“Every person has someone in their life who has made a difference. Positive one-on-one attention from a caring adult is key to all children feeling good about themselves and others. In school mentoring works because Big Brothers Big Sisters takes the time to properly train and supervise the matches. For my schools it is Madeline Van Hemert. Without her it would not be as successful as it is. Thank you, Maddy, for all the great work you do!”