Lisa Carson and her ‘Little’ Brendan share what it’s like to participate in Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
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“I want to introduce Lisa Carson and Brendan and talk to them a little bit about activities we like to do and have them share a little bit about what their Big Brothers Big Sisters experience is like.”
“Well, thanks for coming out this afternoon and allowing Brendan and I to share our experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters with you.
I’ll start by telling you how I got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters. My husband and I have an empty nest. Our daughters are 25 and 24, so they have been out of the house. Well,technically, as much as adult children can be out of your house, for several years now and that left kind of a void in my life. I was feeling like I wanted to do something in the community and I knew that I needed to be with children, which is a huge passion of mine.
I had considered Big Brothers Big Sisters for about a year and then I was invited to the Big Magic Breakfast and that’s an event that they have each year, I believe it’s in April. I received that invitation; I went this last year and it was an amazing event. It’s about an hour long. You have speakers, kind of like Brendan and me, telling about their experience. It was just a wonderful event. It sealed the deal for me. I knew that I wanted to get involved so I looked at trying to get on the Board as a Director and was recently appointed a position as a Board member.
I then also decided to become a Big Sister. My husband Tim and I decided that we would partner up in becoming Bigs. We went through the match process and I can’t tell you how quick, thorough, efficient it was. As a new Board member, I was extremely proud of the Big Brothers Big Sisters staff, especially in matching us with Brendan, which has turned out to be a wonderful match for us.
We met Brendan on September 21st. It was a great first meeting. I remember going to the Big Brothers Big Sisters office. His family was patiently waiting in the conference room for us. Tim and I walked through the door and he got right up and came to us and put his hand out and shook our hands, big smile on his face. I just remember his mom telling us, ‘The child didn’t sleep at all last night. He kept the entire family up. He was so excited to meet his Big Brother and Big Sister.’ I was so moved by that. That this child would be so excited to meet my husband and me that he didn’t sleep and kept the whole family up. They were exhausted.
We made a very strong connection that evening. I remember Brendan was writing down all the fun things that he wanted to do with Tim and me. We were looking over that list and we realized that it was a lot of fun things, a lot of things that we had in common. We knew that we were going to have a lot of fun and we were anxious to get started on the match.
I like to use words to describe Brendan. He gets kind of a kick out of that, so I’ll explain some of those words to you just to kind of get an idea of what type of young man he is. He is very energetic. Sometimes so much so, he wears me out. He is extremely confident. I think that’s really cool because it is hard to teach confidence. I think it’s something that he was definitely born with and something that we try to build upon. He is very, very polite and extremely kind hearted, very smart, as some of you have probably witnessed now in just visiting with him. Very intelligent young man and then there was another word that we talked about a month ago.”
“It was diligent.”
“Diligent. He is extremely diligent, on task all the time when he is with Tim and me. Now if mom was here, she might say, maybe not so much at home all the time but for the most part, right? Diligent.
We have also already had several outings with Brendan. We have gone to the park and he’ll touch on that. We went to Cold Stone for his birthday. Tim and I got him a fish. He loves science so we thought he’d really enjoy taking care of something that’s living. Is the fish still alive?”
“The fish is still alive. The fish’s name is?”
“I just call him Bubba because…”
“That’s what I thought.
“…I’m not sure.”
“Yeah, yeah. We went to Halloween on the Hill at Mount Mercy College, the Holiday Party at Hawkeye Downs, and the Theatre Cedar Rapids for ‘A Christmas Carol’ production. And those are things that Big Brothers Big Sisters puts on for its Bigs and Littles. I mean there are so many events, it’s almost overwhelming. They’re free, they’re fun. They are always doing something for the Bigs and Littles which is really wonderful. Next week, I think, we are signed up to go to Coe College for the animal shelter training.
“It was snowy the day we were supposed to go last time and it got cancelled, but I think that is scheduled for next week. That was a result of the list that Brendan made the night we met him. He talked about wanting to volunteer in the community and a passion for animals. We’ll go out and volunteer at the shelter.
Brendan recently attended Bring Your Little to Work Day at Aegon where I work. That was just an amazing afternoon for me. I went down and got him from the guard station brought him up in the elevator; we get off the elevator and the first person walking our way is my boss. Oh, I said,boy Brendan, I can’t believe this guy coming at us and Brendan said, ‘I think that must be your boss’ and I said, yep. He walked up to him and put his hand out, shook his hand, ‘hi, my name is Brendan; it is nice to meet you.’ I had no idea how an eleven year old boy was going to greet an adult. We went back to my office and I had originally intended to share etiquette on meeting people. He had it down. I said, ‘how did you learn to greet people so well?’ His mom taught him. She teaches him please and thank you and good manners and obviously how to greet people. I was very impressed.
He was with me for about three hours that afternoon and everyone he met his hand was out.
‘Hi, my name is Brendan, so nice to meet you.’ He had conversations with secretaries and vice presidents, it didn’t matter. He went to everyone’s office and just really had a good time meeting them.
He was such a hit that my boss came into my office the next day and said, ‘we loved Brendan,we had so much fun with him, sharing the afternoon with us. He’s welcome to come back any time. You don’t have to wait for the next Bring Your Little to Work Day. Bring him in any time for a couple of hours. We would love to have him back.’ I thought that was pretty cool. He made quite an impact on the people that I work with at Aegon.
Tim and Brendan, last weekend, did the Bowl for Kid’s Sake. You have probably seen all the information on the news about that event. It’s a month long of bowling. It’s a very large fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Tim and Brendan bowled. They had a great time, got a door prize, some snacks. I think there is still time to sign up, so if you’re interested in bowling, you can talk to Kyla following the presentation.
So a fun thing that we did for Brendan, that night that we met, we gave him a journal and asked him if he would write in that journal after each outing that we had together. We challenged him to write in there just something that he learned. Well, he turned the challenge on us and said you guys have a journal too because we bought one for ourselves to write in. Why don’t you write something that you learned after each of our visits? It has really turned into something fun. We go out on an outing, event, we’re driving Brendan back home, ‘what did you learn, Brendan, at the event?’ And then he asks us what did we learn at the event. I think it was the Halloween party and we were driving home, my husband was in DC on business and we’re almost to Brendan’s house when he says, ‘I’m just really disappointed.’ What, what did I do?
‘Well, you forgot to ask me what I learned on this outing. If Tim was here he would have asked me, what did I learn. Well, I admit I had forgotten. It was a long night, overwhelming, candy everywhere so we talked about what we had both learned that night. Diligent.
I think that most people think that in a mentor situation, the mentor is teaching and that the Little is learning, but in our situation, it’s a two way street. We really feel like we’re learning just as much from Brendan as he is from us. He is very smart. He knows a lot about science and animals and various things. Whenever we get together, again, we’re always learning something. We’re writing it in our journal. I think that is kind of cool that you can have an eleven year old teach you things every time you are together.
In closing, I just really want to stress on the fact that this has been life changing for me. Being a Big Sister, not having had young kids at my house for over a decade and never had a boy, raised two daughters. Getting to hang out with an eleven year old boy is exciting and fun. Being a Board member has just been amazing as well. The Big Brothers Big Sisters staff has been sogood to me in terms of welcoming me and answering all of my questions and just a very warm group of people. Actually, they are contagious. You just want to be around them, which is good because being a new Board member and a Big Sister, sometimes I’m at events with them two or three times in a week, more than my family sometimes. That’s all I have to say, I know that Brendan has a few things he wants to talk about – so here’s Brendan.
“As you said, my name is Brendan and as you can see up here, we went to the park and I told them about some Monarch butterflies. She is the one who caught that butterfly that you see I am holding.”
“But I shared it, right?”
“Yeah. I told them about little facts about the Monarchs like it’s like the butterfly that has more stronger wings than other butterflies. We scrapbook every time that we go out so like Halloween Hill, we got some pictures so we’re going to go scrapbook. We have themes every time we go. I’m not sure, two weeks from now, I’m pretty sure that we’re going to go scrapbook. We have a thick pile now since we took a lot of pictures.”
“A lot of pictures.”
“Yeah, what we learned and we talk about our feelings and also the slogan of Big Brothers Big Sisters, ‘Little moments, Big magic.’ Little moments have big magic on me, I do a lot more better at home then I used to. That’s pretty much all I have.
“All right. Good job.”