BIG Spotlight

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Each month, Big Brothers Big Sisters recognizes one outstanding Big for a strong commitment to his or her Little and to our overall mentoring mission. Read about how these Bigs connect with their Littles, what they talk about with their matches or how they overcome challenges while growing in their mentor friendships.

“Javon has taught me to be flexible, because I never know what surprises our get togethers hold,” says Brian Udell.

In August 2009, Big Brother Brian was matched with his Little, Javon. After their first meeting, Brian said it was clear that he was embarking upon an adventure.

Every Saturday, the two meet and spend time doing various activities. “Sometimes we might end up spending all [of our time] reading together, or we might find ourselves out on a kayak somewhere,” says Brian.

While the pair remains open to trying something a little different at every meeting, one thing is constant: Javon’s energy. According to Brian, Javon is a sharp and energetic kid. During their first meeting, Javon immediately started demonstrating how penguins slide on their bellies, and then smooth talked his way into getting a free kayak ride on Lake Nokomis.

“Keeping up with his energy level and attention span can be quite the task sometimes, and it always helps to be mentally and physically prepared for some serious exercise before getting together,” says Brian.

Aside from playing sports, going to events or the park, one special thing they do together is read. The ‘bros,’ as they refer to each other occasionally, spend time reading at coffee shops. Since they started focusing on Javon’s reading capabilities, Brian says Javon has moved up several reading levels in school.

The time spent together is rewarding for the duo. Javon, who anxiously anticipates their hangouts, has overcome reading obstacles and gets a few hours of his Big Brother’s undivided attention spending time however he sees fit each week. Brian’s rewards are just as great.

“I think the most rewarding thing is watching him improve at reading.  He is a bright kid, who just has some hurdles to overcome, and helping him along the way has felt great,” says Brian. “I’ve [also] had several opportunities to mentor Javon in life lessons and doing the right thing.”

Brian says that Javon has matured over the past year, and has really opened up to him. From the beginning of this adventure, Brian said that he kept an open mind but just wanted to create a bond and be a positive influence to a child.

It is clear that their weekly activities and memories have created a special bond between the two.

Brian started volunteering because he wanted to make a difference and give back. He encourages others to do the same. “I have encouraged my friends to volunteer with BBBS, but to make sure they’re in a place in their lives where it makes sense.  Having some stability and free time certainly helps.  People ask if it costs money, and it can from time to time, but there are a lot of fun and free things we can do together.”

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