story & photos
by Maren Schober
Sharon Otto was watching TV at home in Groton three years ago, when she saw an advertisement for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. Mentors were needed to form a relationship with a child and make a positive difference in that child’s life.
“What a good idea,” Sharon thought to herself. “What a great thing to do.” Missing a personal relationship with a child in her life, Sharon signed up for the program and started her training.
At the same time, Gina was at home in Waterford jealously watching her older sister Katie come and go with Katie’s “Big Sister,” Barbara. “I saw the good time Katie was having and wanted a ‘Big Sister’ of my own,” Gina shares with me.
In a few months, Sharon Otto and Gina were matched as a Big and Little Sister, and they were off on adventures and good times of their own.
I am in New London ,by the river walk, chatting with Sharon and Gina today, May 31, three years later. “Gina and I do lots of things together,” says Sharon, “but best of all she likes to do crafts.” “Yes,” Gina nods on agreement. “Is this where I get to tell you what we do? We do scrapbooking together with pictures Sharon takes of things we do together. I like doing this.”
“Gina also likes to work with clay,” Sharon adds. “Yes, I do like that,” Gina continues. “I am taking a Yoga class,” Sharon tells me, “and Gina goes too.”
Sharon and Gina meet once a week for a special activity and sometimes twice a week. Sometimes they just hang out and watch a movie.
The next day I meet with Tom Brown and his Little Brother Malcolm. I use that word “little” loosely as Malcolm, at age 15, now towers over Tom!
Tom is enlisted in the Coast Guard as a principal trumpet player in the Coast Guard Band. Tom and Malcom were matched in 2003. “I just thought it would be a wonderful thing to give back to a child as a Big Brother through our friendship and spending time together,” Tom tells me.
“Gosh, we do so many different things,” Malcolm shares. “It seems like we go all around the world. We have been to Boston to see a Celtics game, and we also went to New York City and saw a lot. Once I even went up in an airplane with Tom and flew over my house! Tom and I also made a lasagna dinner for my family.”
Both Sharon Otto and Tom Brown epitomize what the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is all about. In recognition of this, Tom and Sharon were awarded with the title of Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year at the annual State of CT Big Brothers Big Sisters meeting on May 21 at the Groton Motor Inn.
They are surprised and pleased with this honor. But more importantly, they each have a new friend for life.
Mentor are always needed for the Big Brother Big Sister program. For more information call 860.437.3227.