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Maine kids finding guidance from mentors called 'Bigs'

“My 'little,' his parents aren't around, so immediately it was evident that the support from me was going to be big for him," one "big" said.

WESTBROOK, Maine — Sometimes, there's a single person who comes around, like a coach or a mentor, who changes our lives in ways we might never have imagined. Now, there's opportunity to be that figure for somebody else.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maine is a mentorship program that helps kids find guidance from older role models called “bigs.” It launched its biggest initiative yet on Jan. 1 of finding "60 'Bigs' in 60 Days," which will wrap up on March 1. 

“When I first met him, he hid behind a couch, literally hid behind a couch,” Barry Bernard, a "big" mentor, said.

Sometimes, a friendship takes a while to develop. That’s a lesson Barry and his "little," Jayden, have learned.

“Being able to see them develop from a very young age to being a successful contributing adult is an incredible reward," Bernard said. 

Barry and Jayden met three years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Barry is Jayden’s big, mentor who fills the shoes of other adult role models Jayden may not have had, but now he’s also a friend.

“We went to a Maine Celtics game the other day, and he got into the truck, and the next you know, it's like he couldn't stop talking,” Bernard said. 

Ted Thrafton has watched his little, Cam, go from second grade to his freshman year in college. He said, over nine years, Cam has become a part of the family. 

“At first, he would ask me if I was getting paid to hang out with him or if it was my decision to hang out with him," Ted said. "Then, over the years, he started talking to me about colleges, start asking me what I do for work, and he would ask me all these questions. And he had someone he could just ask anything to." 

Now, Southern Maine Big Brothers Big Sisters is looking for more people like that.

The organization said it needs male bigs. About 35 out of 45 kids on a waiting list to become littles are boys.

Emily Hering, communications and event manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maine, said people matter, and everyone can benefit from a mentor.

A mentor who could help make a difference for kids in the state of Maine who are sometimes fighting unseen battles.

“Maine actually has one in four kids that suffer from depression and anxiety compared to one in six nationally,” Hering said. 

In a lot of cases, bigs are stepping in as a figure these kids may not otherwise have had.

“My little, his parents aren't around. So, immediately it was evident that the support from me was going to be big for him,” Joel Allen, a big, said.

These men are making a big difference in a little kid’s life.

“He’s written me a few Christmas cards to try and put it into words, and it makes me teary-eyed thinking about it," Brian Mchugh, a big, said.

Credit: NCM

If you are interested in becoming a big, you can click here to get more information.

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