KD Sunday Spotlight: Big Brothers Big Sisters Deliver Relationships That Change Lives
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For nearly 60 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh has provided one-on-one mentoring to empower and enlighten children, especially those facing adversity.
“It’s an album that Chris did last Christmas,” said Zaire Bridges, who is a bit into the organization. “He gave it to me. It contains everything we’ve done.”
It starts with game day on July 20, 2020, when Bridges and Chris Sinisi first met.
The following pages are filled with other memorabilia, such as pumpkin picking, ice skating, baseball, and more.
But they said Kennywood was the best trip.
“Kennywood, we established trust right away,” said Sinisi, who is Bridges’ great. “I think it’s because I convinced him to go on the Phantom for the first time.”
“That was probably one of the first outings where we started to bond,” Bridges said. “He’s someone I can open up to and talk to when I need to.”
This is one of the main reasons Bridges joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters Sports Buddies program.
CEO Becky Flaherty said they fit an adult and a child who love sports and do activities at least twice a month.
“I was struggling in school and I was suspended and all that,” Bridges said. “My mom told me to join the program, so I could have a male role model.”
Flaherty said they serve children ages 6 to 13 in Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties.
She said most of them have single parents or face challenges at home or school.
“One of the things we know, for kids to thrive, they really need three positive adult relationships in their life,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty said their community and school programs help children improve their social, academic and behavioral skills.
They recently launched “Big Siblings” which provides mentors to the LGBTQ+ community.
“We did this because we noticed, especially working with our high school students, that it’s something young people identify with and want more support to deal with it,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty said he needs mentors who are at least 21 years old, especially men.
“You don’t have to have the perfect career or a certain amount of money,” Flaherty said. “It’s really about building that relationship. The kids just want someone who’s there constantly and knows they’re going to show up.”
These are monthly interactions that can change children’s lives forever.
“It really keeps the kids out there and getting in trouble and stuff,” Bridges said. “You occupy their time. They have a lot to look forward to with activities and stuff.”
Sinisi said it also changes the outlook for adults.
“To see someone with a different background from a different city and open up to me about what they’re going through is rewarding for me and for all the fun things we’ve done together,” Sinisi said.
Most importantly, relationships turn into lifelong friendships.
Or in this case, brothers.
“Because our bond is very close, and that’s something that I don’t think I can find with anyone else,” Bridges said.
“I think the minimum requirement for the program is a one-year game, but I’ve never seen that as a timeline,” Sinisi said. “It went well from the start, and I said okay, ‘he’s my little brother, and that’s how it’s gonna be forever.'”
They leave the empty pages of the album for the best that is yet to come.
Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks to recruit mentors, especially men.
Currently, 150 children are on the waiting list.
They are also actively recruiting little sisters between the ages of 6 and 13.