Big Spotlight: Little Brother Deonte and Big Couple Steve and Laurie

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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 and how they overcome challenges while growing in their mentor friendships.

Two years ago, Steve and Laurie Leensvaart were considering what adventures lay ahead, while contemplating the possibility of having children. After realizing Big Brothers Big Sisters provided an inspiring opportunity to form a beneficial bond with a young person, 9-year-old Deonte entered their lives in July of 2009. Since then, the trio has been enrolled in the Big Couples program.

“[Laurie and I] wanted to experience what it would be like to spend time with a young person and whether it might be a possible alternative if we did not have kids,” Steve explained.

Quickly after being matched with Deonte, who is now 11, they realized spending time with a young person fit perfectly into their lives. “The one-year commitment came and went so fast. We find it easy to schedule activities and find time to be with Deonte,” Steve said.

Their list of memories includes rollerblading at Lake Calhoun, participating in the Animal Humane Society’s Walk for Animals, testing their skills at a high ropes course at the YMCA and attending the Red Bull Flugtag event in St. Paul last summer.

After spending countless hours together, the Leensvaarts have seen Deonte grow in his responsibility and his respect for the earth.

“We’ve taught him to throw his trash away and be more caring about the environment,” Steve said. They’ve also given Deonte the invaluable gift of friendship, taught him about life and exposed him to new experiences.

Although they’ve shared a lot with their Little, Deonte has given just as much in return. Above all, Laurie and Steve simply enjoy Deonte’s company: “Deonte is a very friendly and outgoing young man who is fun to be around. We love his overall silliness. He makes us feel young again. The best part is knowing that he wants to do stuff with us just as much as we do with him.”

In March, the Leensvaarts welcomed a new edition to their family: a daughter, Elsa. “I guess now we’re a Big family,” Steve said.

Steve and Laurie’s friendship with Deonte has made them sure of one thing: Becoming a Big Couple is a transforming experience, whether or not you have children of your own.

“We find ourselves wondering what we did with our time before we were matched with Deonte. It’s a small amount of time for us each month, but I know it means a lot to him. If any significant amount of time goes by between activities, he asks his mom about us and has said that he’s missed us. We miss him, too, of course.”

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