How You Can Change a Life

Mother’s Day is May 14th. Many youngsters could use a mother or adult mentor in their life. Fortunately, there’s a volunteer program which gives them a chance to develop relationships with adults who can guide and encourage them. Together, child and adult enjoy time together at the park, baking cookies, playing sports, watching a movie, or simply chatting and laughing.This program has also proven to help children become more confident, do better in school, and build friendships. The program is “Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America” and has changed lives.

My writer friend, Mel Hammond, has been a Big since 2017, and I had the chance to interview her. She wanted to get involved in her community in a way that was long-lasting and meaningful. She’d done some drop in volunteer work here and there, but becoming a Big Sister felt more purposeful. Plus, hanging out with kids was fun!  

I asked her about some of the fun activities she and her Little Sister have done. She replied, “My Little and I love to make things together! You can usually find us cooking, baking, drawing, or making crafts. We’ve had cake-baking battles (my imagination soared on this description) and spicy noodle eating contests.” Have I mentioned that my friend Mel is super creative and fun? Mel continues. “We’ve constructed pop-up photo books, painted picture frames, dyed eggs with shaving cream, and assembled collages from old maps and magazines. During the height of the pandemic, we spent a lot of time drawing together over Zoom.” 

“Some of the stuff we make turns out TERRIBLY! Once we tried to make turkey-shaped cookies for Thanksgiving, but we couldn’t find all the decorations the recipe called for, so we improvised. The cookies turned out looking like brown lumps with squiggles on top. We laughed so hard at them!”

Mel told me that her first summer with her little sister, the town of Madison had a public art project. Bucky on Parade featured 85 life-size Bucky Badger statues hidden around the city. “My Little Sister and I spent the whole summer finding as many as we could and taking selfies with them. We found something like 55! It was a fun way to explore parts of Madison we wouldn’t otherwise visit.” 

I asked Mel to tell us about the challenges of being a Big. She replied her Little is now a full-blown teenager and it can be harder to find activities she’s excited about. So, it takes a little more creativity and open-mindedness from both = to find something fun to do together. But they always think of something!

I wondered how difficult it would be to see a Little making poor decisions and, since the Big isn’t the parent, how the adult could help guide without overstepping. Mel explained. “I ask a lot of questions about what’s going on in my Little’s life. I’m always grateful for her openness and willingness to share her feelings and experiences with me. If she talks about an issue she’s struggling with, or if she mentions a poor decision she made, I ask more questions and encourage her to think critically about it. Most importantly, I let her know that I love her and that I’ll always be around for her.”

If you go to the Big Brothers, Big Sisters website, you will read some amazing stories of how Bigs have stepped in when a Little lost a parent or desperately needed an adult friend. Mel and other Bigs report that the program has a major impact on their lives as well. Mel says, “It’s been amazing to get to know not just my Little, but her whole family. They came to my wedding last year, and my Little was a junior bridesmaid. It feels good to have a relationship with a family I wouldn’t have otherwise met.”

The program encourages Bigs to plan on seeing their Littles 2-3 times a month. I asked Mel if it’s been hard to keep that commitment. “Not really! Some days I might think to myself, “Oh, I really don’t have time for this today.” But spending time with my Little forces me to slow down and do something relaxing for a few hours, like drawing. I always feel rejuvenated afterward.

If you would like to learn more, or volunteer to be a Big, or register a child, check out You can change a life.

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