We ricochet off the bouncy surface at Launch Trampoline Park, giggling and flying giddily through the air. We were on our second outing after having been matched as Big and Little Sisters just weeks before by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters (JBBBS).

This moment is just one among many special memories we have made in the past seven months: We have met dogs, cats and birds at the Animal Rescue League, painted at Plaster Fun Time, cheered each other on at a JBBBS bowling event and decorated cupcakes with M&Ms and gummy bears. We have cashed in well-earned Chuck E. Cheese tickets for cotton candy, appreciated a pizza picnic by a pond and explored numerous playgrounds.

Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned to enjoy quality time online in place of in-person adventures. We have flexed our creativity through online painting tutorials. We have sung along to lyric videos. And we have practiced mindfulness by listening to guided meditations. As my Little Sister and I try varied and new activities, it’s a joy to watch her interests emerge. I know it’s the passions she discovers in childhood that will guide her journey and inform her choices. I look forward to continuing to share in and encourage her along this journey.

No matter what activities we choose to share, I always appreciate the conversations that come with them. Whether I have the opportunity to learn about my Little Sister’s fourth-grade teacher and classmates or the privilege to hear about her dream of becoming a teacher, I feel grateful to be a part of her childhood as she gets to know the world around her. I cherish the moments when she chooses to confide in me and give me a window into her worldview.

Together, we work toward important goals, including self-worth, that I hope will help my mentee to have a happy and fulfilling future. One of my inspirations, Mr. Fred Rogers, says, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” I intend to be a friend who cares for my Little Sister unconditionally and values her completely, in alignment with the mission of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters: At JBBBS, we believe that everyone deserves to have someone in their life who wants to spend time with them and believes in them.

I believe in my Little Sister wholeheartedly and consider her truly astounding. She never fails to amaze me with her imagination, artistic and musical aptitudes, emotional expression and care for others. I make a concerted effort to praise her for these strengths and direct her toward activities that allow her to use them.

A drawing Marissa and her Little Sister did together (Courtesy image)
A drawing Marissa and her Little Sister did together (Courtesy image)

Every step of the way, my Little Sister and I have benefitted from the dedicated support of the JBBBS staff and leadership. I am grateful to our clinical match specialist, Caitlin, who checks in regularly to see how we are doing and provides expert advice. I am grateful, also, to Tania (outreach manager), who welcomes new volunteers to JBBBS with warmth and enthusiasm, Arielle (programs assistant), who plans helpful volunteer trainings and coordinates special opportunities for matches in collaboration with partner organizations, Lorraine (team lead/clinical match specialist), who conducted my interview to become a JBBBS volunteer and introduced me to my Little Sister and her mother at our initial match meeting, and every member of the JBBBS team who keeps the organization growing and thriving to the benefit of children. 

Mr. Rogers also said, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” The JBBBS team comprises many of the most heroic people I know.

I would urge any person looking to make a difference—and a new friend—to volunteer with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. To learn more about the Children’s Program, as well as the Friend 2 Friend Program, visit jbbbs.org/volunteer. For me, filling out the application form on this page was the start of the most rewarding, meaningful, joyful and educational volunteer experience I have ever had.

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