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‘I didn’t have much support … except for Leah’

Big Sister’s attention was one constant for Little Sister

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shared under a picnic pavilion may not sound like the recipe for a life-changing friendship but for former Little Sister Mariah and Big Sister Leah it allowed shared confidences that brought trust and stability into Mariah’s world.

When the two were matched in 2006, Leah offered a variety of activities that were new to Mariah: bike riding, swimming and scrapbooking to name a few. But as expenses mounted, Leah thought to herself, “We could just go hang out and talk.”

So they took a decidedly different turn in their outings. “We’d go to the park, sit under the pavilion and talk,” Big Sister Leah says. “We’d make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sort of have a picnic.” Even though they’d been matched awhile, Leah thought they needed a way to get to know one another on a deeper level. So she began creating “getting to know you” quizzes that explored their favorite colors, favorite foods, and a multitude of other details. They’d take the quizzes and then discuss the results. Exploring why they chose their answers allowed them to better understand one other.

Through these talks Mariah learned she could depend on her Big Sister for support and advice. “I could go to her and talk about anything,” Mariah says. “It was nice to have someone to talk to. With Leah it was all about me.”

Leah could see that Mariah’s family faced challenges so she used their talks to help Mariah realize that she could change her life for the better. “I told her, ‘You just have to try hard and know that some of the things you’re seeing around you aren’t good.’ I showed her options of what she could do with her life and let her experience another way of life,” Leah says.

Today, Mariah is the mother of a little girl and a full-time student at Western Michigan University studying criminal justice with the goal of becoming a police officer. She has also brought the Big/Little experience full circle by becoming a Big Sister herself.

“I didn’t have much support growing up except for Leah and I wanted to do the same for someone else,” Mariah says.

Leah is pleased that Mariah has become a Big Sister and encourages others to follow suit. “What do you have to lose?” Leah asks. “The potential is endless because you have the ability to introduce a new world to a child.”