Our Matches

Anita & Viktoria develop a bond without borders.
If you met Anita today, you would discover a 21-year-old, rising graphic design and illustration student with a solid job and her own apartment, raising her son Emaurie as a single mother. If you had met her two years ago, you would have a met a young girl, scared and living in a shelter. Having spent her life moving from foster home to foster home after moving to America from Africa at 7 years old, Anita had no family and nowhere to turn, until a friendly face connected her with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Big Brothers Big Sisters match specialist Diane originally worked at the mothers’ shelter where Anita was living. When Diane began working for Big Brothers Big Sisters, she immediately reached out to Anita. “She thought that as a young, single mother I could use someone to help guide me,” Anita says, “and she asked if I would be interested.”
Diane soon paired Anita with Viktoria. At first Anita was a bit skeptical of Big Brothers Big Sisters. She viewed the organization as a mentoring outlet for young children and thought as a teenager she was a too old for the program to help her. Anita was also very nervous to meet Viktoria for the first time. “I wondered if she would be understanding,” remembers Anita. “I was ashamed of my situation—being young and having a child of my own.” Anita was also concerned that because they came from very different backgrounds that they would not be able to relate, but “Diane told me to give it time and get to know her.”
Anita soon learned that they were, in fact, not so different after all. She says that Viktoria, her twin sister and parents came to America from Russia when she was young. Her family had very little money and struggled to survive. Viktoria worked very hard to make a living and find a better life. “She always tells me how to apply this to my situation,” Anita says.
Diane regularly checked in with Anita and Viktoria to be sure the relationship was mutually rewarding. Viktoria has opened Anita up to new experiences, and the pair has been able to share their respective cultures and explore new things. The first time we went out together was for Thai food. Anita says, “I didn’t know what to order, but Victoria recommended Pad Thai. I fell in love with Thai food and now sometimes secretly go out and buy myself a little Thai dinner!”
Anita and Viktoria not only like to go out to dinner together, but they have also seen Broadway shows and have gone ice skating. “When we went ice skating, I brought my son and Viktoria brought her daughter,” remembers Anita. “I didn’t know how to skate, but she coached me until I got it.”
Anita appreciated that Viktoria did not judge, pity or reprimand her for her past decisions. “Viktoria acted like herself and always showed respect for my situation. She never gave the impression that she was trying to make me feel better. She will just bluntly tell me how she feels—like a friend. Like she’ll say ‘you’re doing this wrong or you’re doing this right.’ She’s been very honest with her situation and mine.”
Viktoria has been an important sounding board for Anita as she matures. She regularly checks in on Anita and Emaurie and is always looking for activities they can all do together. “She’s a Big Sister to me and to my son. She is now helping me as he goes through his different developmental stages. She’s really become a support system and life coach.”
When Anita began looking for a job, Viktoria helped her research potential employers. She told Anita what to expect on the interviews, how to dress and even acted as a test interviewer to give Anita practice answering tough questions. Thanks to this preparation, Anita landed an internship at a fashion firm as a graphic designer. “Viktoria really gave me the resources to succeed,” Anita says, “and this motivates me to succeed even more.”
Anita currently attends Community College, and when she graduates, wants to find a job or internship at a magazine—as long as she’s focused on art. “For someone that is young and doesn’t have a positive influence in his or her life, Big Brothers Big Sisters is the best program,” Anita says. “Finding someone who can help you succeed within your life is the most rewarding thing.”
“Without Viktoria in my life, I would probably be in a shelter,” Anita speculates. “I needed a job to be able to get this apartment, and Viktoria helped me do that—now I live on my own.”
“I wanted to do better for myself, and to be a better person in society,” Anita adds. “Not so much for me, but for my son.”

Thanks to Ron, Edward is really on the move.
Ten-year-old Edward was bound to a walker, struggling in school, was shy around classmates and lacked a male role model in his life. In the four years since he’s known his Big Brother Ron, Edward has unburdened himself from the walker, improved his grades and is full of confidence. Ron pushes Edward to seize opportunities and be the best he can be, and Edward is taking full advantage of his guidance.
Because Edward is the oldest boy in his household, and one of four children, his mother, Shanti, realized that he was in need of a male role model to confide in, learn from and rely on. She reached out to Big Brother Big Sisters in search of a mentor. Through Big Brothers Big Sisters match specialist Francy, Edward was soon paired with Ron, a small business owner. Although Edward was nervous for his first meeting with Ron, Francy assisted in the transition and made everyone feel comfortable with this new experience.
Edward was born with spinal cell degeneration, which made him rely on a walker and helmet to travel around safely. Shanti explains that certain intrinsic mental and emotional insecurities accompany such reliance when you are a young boy. As Ron built Edward’s self-confidence, Edward felt that he wanted to make a big change in his life.
“I told Ron one day that I didn’t want to use a walker anymore, and Ron said ‘ok’,” Edward says. “He started to teach me about balance and strength. We would practice walking up and down the stairs. We would also go to the park and do a ton of pushups—we’d have contests to see who could do the most. I think I started to get stronger than him actually. He really pushed me, and I stopped using my walker in the beginning of this year.”
Ron pushes Edward just as hard in his academics and rewards him for outstanding performance. Every Tuesday night and many weekends, Ron tutors Edward in math, English and economics. “He’s very patient and explains everything so I can understand,” Edward says. Last year, Edward proudly graduated from eighth grade. “Before he didn’t put a lot of effort into school work. Ron was able to turn him around and make Edward focus. I think it’s a man-to-man thing.”
Due to this significant boost in Edward’s self-confidence, Shanti has noticed a marked improvement in the relationship with her son. Because he is now 14 years old, Edward uses Ron as an outlet for his question and concerns, often times pre-screening his thoughts with Ron before discussing personal issues with his mother. “When he eventually comes to me,” says Shanti, “it’s just easier for him to talk with mom once he’s gotten Ron to weigh in.”
“Ron cares a lot about Edward” Shanti continues. “Ron is like the co-pilot—he and I have a good relationship where we can discuss concerns about Edward. He comes with me to meet Edward’s teachers in school, and we try to discuss the things we feel will best help Edward.”
Edward eventually began to share his fears and aspirations with Ron, and seek his advice on how to solve problems that he was dealing with at school. He looks out for me like a real big brother,” Edward says.
Ron is showing Edward that anything is possible with hard work and focus. Edward will often visit Ron at his furniture store to see how the showroom operates, and now Edward has his sights set on entrepreneurship. “Ron has opened my mind to different opportunities,” he says. “I want to run my own chocolate business when I get older. And I want Ron to come walk around my store.”
“I feel like I can tell Ron anything,” asserts Edward. Big Brothers Big Sisters has had a very good impact on my life.” Ron and Edward also have fun playing tag and going to see the newest movies.
“When mentorship is done right, it doesn’t take a lot to make a kid happy,” Shanti explains. “Children want time and attention. I was lacking time because I have four children. Ron takes time to be with Edward, and that was not something that Edward was used to. Big Brothers Big Sisters was able to step in and not only create a future for my son, but also support me as a mother.”

Tyler is put on a positive path
As Tyler and his mother sat in the Big Brothers Big Sisters offices excitedly waiting for his new Big Brother to arrive, a tall, good-looking, athletic man in his mid-twenties walked into the room. “I think that’s Freddie,” Pam whispered to her son. “I think you’re going to like him.” Tyler nodded yes, and a smile spread across his face.
Pam recalls a very different situation just a few years earlier. Due to substance abuse issues, the father of her two boys became physically abusive. After 13 years of marriage, they divorced and he moved out of state, abandoning his family—Tyler was 7 years old. “His dad did not model good behavior, which was huge in Tyler’s life,” Pam reflects. “There were many years after his dad left that Tyler had severe behavioral issues. It’s been a huge process to recover—to get to a point where he’s maturing and making better decisions.”
Tyler was having trouble focusing on his schoolwork so he began attending Resource learning classes in sixth grade. One day he got in a fight after school. Tyler was suspended and forced to complete the final two months of school at home. “It was not a good situation. He can be very impulsive at times and made some bad choices,” Pam says.
“Tyler was old enough to see his dad go down,” she continues. “I didn’t want my children to have that as their lifestyle.” Tyler and his brother see their dad about once every two years, and Pam says that there is a sense of “if my dad really cared about me he would chose to be in my life.”
In August 2009, Freddie walked into Tyler’s life.
Pam remembers Freddie being warm and friendly right from his first “hello.” Freddie and Tyler have many common interests, so deciding on outings came easily. They’ve gone bowling, played volleyball and ice hockey, and most recently tried paint-balling together. Their Big Brothers Big Sisters match support specialist has kept them apprised of upcoming events and special activities. They’ve even attended a day-camp with the Arizona Cardinals national football team.
“Freddie has a lot of energy, and that keeps Tyler busy and gives him confidence,” Pam says. “His life is less serious now—he definitely laughs a lot more.”
His fun-loving, confident, successful Big Brother sets an example of what can result from drive and determination. Earning his driver’s permit has been top-of-mind for Tyler this year. Freddie helps Tyler stay focused on the goal by talking about someday owning his own car. He also gets Tyler thinking about his path following high school, whether it be college or trade school.
Pam says, “It’s important for Tyler to see a guy that has accomplished things. Freddie is a young guy with a college degree, a good job, a home, a puppy and a girlfriend—all things that appeal to Tyler. He wants that life someday. Now he talks about the future so much more than he ever has, and that’s because of Freddie’s influence.”
Freddie’s easy-going disposition and innate calmness have also rubbed off on Tyler. Due to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tyler gets upset more quickly than other children and has trouble focusing, but Pam has noticed a distinct change in his self-control. Tyler now weighs the consequence of his actions.
Tyler more specifically says: “Freddie has helped me with my brother Trevor. Now I relax and ignore him when he’s bothering me instead of getting upset and angry.”
His mom continues: “When you have a parent—your own dad—with substance abuse issues, it’s hard for a kid. Having Big Brothers Big Sisters in his life has shown Tyler that people have a choice to be a part of someone’s life. He knows that his father is making the choice to stay away—and that’s very hard for Tyler. But, his Big Brother keeps coming back, and wants to spend time with him. He enjoys that consistency of having someone involved with his life. And you can see how happy Freddie is when he picks up Tyler.”
Pam removed her boys from a negative situation, but she also knew Tyler and his younger brother Trevor needed a positive male role model.
“I can support them, but I’m not a man,” she explains. Having Freddie as the male influence in a young boy’s life makes me feel good. It shows Tyler that he can be different than his dad was.”
Tyler explains: “It’s important to have another guy to hang out with that’s a better influence and role model. He helps me stay out of trouble—keeps me busy so I don’t get bored and do something negative.”
“Big Brothers Big Sisters accepts your child for who they are, not how they are expected to act. It eliminates the fear of acting differently from everyone else. The focus is on my son and Freddie having a great time together. It’s important for Tyler to see that some people chose to stick around.”
“I want to raise boys that will be responsible and good members of their community. It was overwhelming to think about doing that on my own. Having Big Brothers Big Sisters as a resource has been the biggest blessing.”