The Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters (RBBBS) match of Big Brother Roy Leonard and Little Brother Kyle has been going strong for five years. I asked Leonard what it's been like.
What inspired you to volunteer with Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters?
When I became an empty nester, I'd discussed with my wife my interest in doing something hands on in the community. Then the Free Lance-Star ran an article about twin 5-year-old boys who had been on the [RBBBS] waiting list for two years. I called and said I wanted to take on the twins. After two years, it became apparent that they needed one-on-one time, so I took the one who was struggling the most at that time — Kyle.
What were some of the ways you and Kyle overcame the initial awkwardness of your first meetings?
Believe me, Kyle and his brother Anthony were ready for me. Once we were introduced, they immediately grilled me about, "When can we get together and what can we do?"
How has your relationship as Big and Little changed over the years?
Kyle is much more trusting and, of course, I can give him a little more freedom now that he's 11. And he has really come out of his shell. He confides things to me such as his nervousness about entering middle school, and seeks me out for validation. He also considers me part of the family, inviting me to things such as his baptism, his older sister's wedding, his school plays, et cetera. He shares with me his career aspirations. He is totally focused on becoming an EMT and a nurse, and lately he has talked more about the military. He really enjoyed visiting the Marine Corps Museum.
What's one of your favorite activities to do together?
It's not one thing...swimming, roller skating, hands-on things like making pizza, walking my dogs, and of course, going to King's Dominion which has become our annual tradition on his birthday. And he really loves it when I take him back in the locker room when I'm refereeing high school basketball and make him part of the "crew." Basically, he likes to feel important, like any pre-teenager.
What would you say to others who may be thinking about volunteering with RBBBS?
The time commitments are not that heavy and the reward of building a relationship with a child in need makes it totally worth it. That being said, the "Big" needs to set an example by always trying to be on time and not cancelling a planned outing unless absolutely necessary — try to be the constant in his/her life.
If you would like more information about Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit www.rbbbs.org or call 540-371-7444.
This is the ninth installment in our yearlong series on RBBBS. Read about the other Big - Little featured pairs online at http://bit.ly/Rapp-BBBS.
Susan Larson is the publisher of Fredericksburg.Today online news, a contributing writer for Fredericksburg Parent and Family magazine and a freelance writer and social media consultant.