Sandra & Drew

Sometimes the strongest bonds in life are the ones you least expect.

The earlier years in Drew’s life weren’t always easy. By the age of ten, he had seen and experienced more than most kids his age.

Drew and his siblings were living in the care of his Aunt. They had been removed from the custody of their biological parents, and were awaiting the final decision if they were going to be put into the foster care system. Even with all that Drew has faced so far in his young life, his spirit hasn’t become dull. That’s because, despite the challenges he’s faced and the inconsistency in his life, he’s always been able to count on his mentor, Sandra, to be his constant.

Drew and Sandra have been matched now for three years. Since the very beginning their bond has been unbreakable. “I like to do anything with her. She is the best person, ever,” says Drew.

Not only does the Sandra’s friendship provide Drew with someone to talk to when things get a little tough, but he also knows that he has someone who is always going to be there for him. They both appreciate the special bond they have. “Drew has filled a space in my heart.” says Sandra.

Drew’s positivity in life has carried over into Sandra’s spirits, she says that she learns more from him then she would have ever imagined.

“There’s something about him that you don’t find in every 10-year-old,” she says. “Drew is very wise, He’s like my tiny little Buddha.”

Drew has had to go through difficult circumstances in his young life that no child should have to experience, but with Sandra by his side he is able to navigate the challenges with the support and tools he needs to realize his full potential.

Maya & Bonnie

Maya is a young Calgary girl who grew up in foster care. Even though she had a difficult upbringing and family history, she felt a strong connection to her First Nations background. Maya was fascinated by the natural environment and loved to spend time exploring the outdoors. Maya’s foster family was supportive, but she longed for someone who could relate to her directly – who could understand her personal challenges and fears. Someone who would listen without judgement and understand her differences.

Maya’s upbringing made it difficult for her to relate to her peers who had a more typical family dynamic, and her quiet demeanor presented opportunities for others to criticize. Especially when facing the challenges brought on by adolescence, Maya found herself exposed to bullying, isolation, and other social struggles

Then, Maya came to Big Brothers Big Sisters and was matched with her mentor, Bonnie.

Bonnie and Maya developed their bond by exploring in the community. They enjoyed going out for sushi, spending time in tea houses and watching movies. They encouraged Maya’s relationship with nature by hiking, swimming, and exploring local parks. Bonnie even helped nurture Maya’s spiritual connection to her culture by attending powwows and other significant First Nations’ celebrations. Maya felt like she could open up to Bonnie about her past and her challenges at school, and felt safe that Bonnie would always listen and support her in coming up with ways to deal with everyday challenges.

It’s been over two years since Maya first met Bonnie and in that time, her life has been changed for the better. Maya feels much more comfortable around her peers and has improved her ability to speak out and engage with others. Maya is now a happy, resilient, and thriving girl. She is confident in her identity and says she owes it all to her mentor, Bonnie.

Carter & Ryan

This is a story about Ryan and Carter. Ryan is a young man from Alberta who grew up in foster care since the age of 11. Ryan was challenged by having a complicated family history and not knowing everything about his past. Due to his difficult family circumstances, Ryan had not been exposed to a lot of opportunities, which in turn made it difficult for him to learn about himself and any interests he might have had. Ryan struggled academically, as well as with social and identity issues as he entered into his teenage years.

Ryan’s foster family was loving and supportive of him, but it was still difficult for Ryan to build relationships, as he never really knew what he liked to do as a result of having so few opportunities in his early years. Ryan needed a strong role model in his life, someone who could focus on him specifically and help him discover his passions and potential.

Ryan was 13 years of age when he was matched with his mentor Carter, who had signed up to be a Big Brother in a Big Brothers Big Sisters community mentoring program. Carter’s compassion, laid-back attitude and incredible patience made him the perfect Big Brother match for Ryan.

Where Ryan wasn’t sure which activities he wanted to explore, Carter helped by making suggestions and encouraging Ryan to try new things. They spent time playing computer games, drawing, and building things with Lego. They liked to visit local museums and go to car shows. One day Carter took Ryan to the Military Museum in Calgary. Ryan was completely in awe of all that he saw and learned there. In fact, Ryan loved this experience so much that he thought one day he might pursue a career in the military.

Ryan and Carter are now entering into their third year as a match. With Carter’s support and encouragement, Ryan enrolled in and completed his first year of air cadets where he excelled in building strong relationships with his fellow peers. Since being matched with Carter, Ryan has developed a strong sense of self-awareness and acceptance. Carter’s success in life has made Ryan determined to find ways to succeed in school and cadets.

When the opportunity presents itself to talk to others about his relationship with Carter, Ryan could not be more proud to talk about his Big Brother and all the experiences they have had together. He hopes that one day he can be a role model to someone, just as Carter has been to him.

Kate & Maddie

Growing up in Chestermere with her mother, Kate was a typical carefree student in elementary school. When Kate was only nine years old, her mother passed away unexpectedly. Without anyone to call mom or dad, Kate moved to be with her aunt Shannon in Calgary and began to build a new life.

That new life brought with it many challenges such as moving, changing schools, and trying to make new friends. Shannon looked for ways to support Kate through the changes and in dealing with the sudden loss of her mother. Shannon realized that as she was already a single mother of two kids and was working full-time, she had little one-on-one time to spend with Kate. Shannon wanted to be able to give Kate the support she needed to be able to heal and grow.

“I wanted her to have a role model in her life. I was not able to be there for her as much as I wanted to be, so I looked into Big Brothers Big Sisters.” said Shannon.

Kate was matched with her mentor Maddie. In the beginning of their friendship Kate was happy to have someone to spend time with, but was still reserved in being able to communicate with Maddie. Three years have passed since the pair have been matched and Kate is now in junior high. Through the growth of their relationship and time spent together Kate feels that now she is able to open up to Maddie about anything.

“My favourite thing is when we lose track of time just talking.” Maddie says.

Through the support Kate has received from her bond with Maddie, Kate is growing to be more confident and is inspired to make friends wherever she goes. Kate remarks that she doesn’t feel alone anymore because she knows she can rely on Maddie to be there for her.

Maddie says, “It’s incredible to see how much she has changed – She used to never want to smile, and now she is so confident with the widest grin.”

Though Maddie’s friendship can never come close to taking away the pain of Kate’s loss, the pair have made a positive contribution to each other’s lives and the memories they have made together will carry with them beyond Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Bailey & Teelynd

Mentoring has always been a part of Bailey’s life, because it was a part of her father’s life.

Bailey’s dad Jim lost his father at a young age, and found himself isolated with no one to look up to as a role model. Seeing the challenges Jim was facing, his Scout leader Bob took it up on himself to introduce Big Brothers Big Sisters to their small rural community in B.C. and became Jim’s ‘Big Brother’.

Growing up Bailey always knew Bob as ‘Uncle Bob’, not knowing how he became part of her life, or the impact he had had on her father. Years later, after moving to Airdrie, Bailey, curious about Uncle Bob, asked her father and was told how their mentoring relationship began. Bailey learned how mentoring changed her father’s life and gave him the gift of a lifelong friendship.

Inspired by their story Bailey wanted to give back to her community, just as Bob had done years before. She decided to become a mentor.

“Talking with my dad, I knew it was a big commitment and might not always be easy, but I was sure I wanted to be a ‘Big Sister’,” said Bailey.

After signing up with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bailey was matched with her ‘Little’, 11 year old Teelynd. The pair felt an immediate connection and on their first outing filled a notebook with all of the things they wanted to do together. Over a year later they are still checking activities off that list and even adding new ones.

Sadly, Uncle Bob passed away last year before Bailey could let him know he inspired her to become a ‘Big Sister’. Still, Uncle Bob’s example as a mentor continues to inspire Bailey in her work with Teelynd. Knowing that her father and Bob were connected for most of their lives, Bailey tells Teelynd that their bond will last a lifetime, too. For Teelynd, “that’s the best thing about having a ‘Big Sister’!”