In 2014, Little Brother Alex was enrolled in SOAR (Social Opportunities Activities and Relationships), a group program offered through Big Brothers Big Sisters for boys who are patiently awaiting a mentor. Just after his birthday in January of 2016, Alex got the phone call he was hoping for. He had been matched with a Big Brother.
Liam, who is a firefighter for the City of St. Catherines, enrolled as a Big Brother after finding a stable career and settling in Hamilton. Having grown up with positive role models in his life, Liam hoped to share his lessons and values with a Little Brother. “My mom would always say, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’ My dad’s best advice was ‘Whatever you end up doing in life… make sure it’s something you love.’” Those are both core values to me today. Well, Liam has proven to be the perfect match for Alex.
For their first outing, the two headed to Bayfront Park for outdoor skating. “We both hadn’t skated in a while so it was fun,” Liam recalls. “We were trying to figure it out together.” Since then, Liam and Alex have developed a remarkable bond.
As they look back on their time together, they recognize how they have helped each other open up. “We were both very quiet initially. I’ve opened up a lot with Alex, and I think he’s done the same,” says Liam.
Alex agrees, saying that he talks openly with his Big Brother. “Every time we meet, we tell each other all about what we did during the week… We say what we have on our minds.” They believe their match has been so successful because they have so much in common – they both like the same type of music, they know how to talk sports, and they share a love for video games.
Over a year later, the smiles on their faces say it all. Liam and Alex see each other once a week and never fail to think of something new to do together. The pair enjoy hiking, shooting hoops, going to Ti-Cats games, lounging at the beach, going Go-Karting, and watching movies. Liam says his favourite moments are the ones they spend just hanging out and catching one another up on their lives.
Perhaps one of the best parts about their friendship is that they do things together that they’ve never done before. Liam jokes that the being a Big Brother allows him to be a kid again. He hadn’t been to a trampoline park prior to being matched.
As they reminisce on all their times together so far, it is apparent that they both have a sense of humour. “Alex is a jokester,” says Liam, adding that during a trip to Wild Water Works this summer, the two kept pushing each other in the water on the lazy river.” Laughing, Alex exclaims that being a Little Brother is great because “It’s fun for both of you.”
Liam too believes the program is very enriching for both sides. “It’s rewarding,” he says. “You’re learning and experiencing someone else and what they’re going through, but you’re also imparting your values and knowledge on someone else.”
Liam recommends the program. “If you’re thinking about becoming a mentor, I’d say do it! It adds a lot of positivity to my life. My friends are always asking me how much it costs or how much time you have to spend, but from my experience, it’s not a chore, it’s not a job, it’s a great time for both of us.”
As he and Alex look toward the future, they hope to one day plan a portage trip in Algonquin and go sky-diving together. If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that there is no end in sight for this friendship. In the words of Alex, “it was a long wait, but it was worth it.”