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Melissa Johnson Was a Little!

This week we welcome Melissa Johnson, Director of Sales and Hospitality for Gull Lake View Golf Resort as guest author. You might know her from the golf course, or perhaps as an Ambassador for Southwest Michigan First’s Chamber, or from her work on the Boys & Girls Club Board of Directors. She is also a vocal heart survivor, speaker, and lobbyist for the American Heart Association. She has served on Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Junior Leadership Committee since 2020.

I am a Little. At least I used to be a Little. An experience I am fortunate to have had and it is an honor to share my story.


My mother was an immigrant from Austria. She was a young girl when she came to the United States and didn’t speak English. She fell in love and married young.

They had three small children and unfortunately when I was just 5 years old, divorced.

My mother had not worked outside the home and as she navigate into her new life as a single mother, doing her very best to provide for her children, we still struggled due to a lack of resources.


Protein for meals was not always a staple in my household as a child. But I did have a determined parent. Since it was important to my mother, in her birth culture, for the village to raise the children, she searched for options to provide support for me and my siblings.

My mother found the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

My older brother was very enthusiastic about becoming a Little and was quickly connected with his big brother Fred. I was, however, an extremely shy child and a little more apprehensive.


Until I met Maureen. At nine years old, Big Brothers Big Sisters brought Maureen into my life.

For many years, Maureen introduced me to a world outside of the one I had known. She taught me how to sail, took me on many camping trips, threw me one of the most memorable birthday parties I had ever had, and kept me connected to my family by including my siblings and cousins with their Bigs during BBBS events.

Maureen always shared with me how much being my Big meant to her and solidified our connection by welcoming me into her extended family’s adventures, most of which, were in cities I had never visited.

Melissa and Maureen sitting in front of a Christmas tree, smiling at the camera.
Her commitment to investing in my life cultivated an environment, where the light that was inside of me, got to shine. -Melissa


Maureen encouraged me in my school studies, came to every choir concert, and engaged me in volunteer opportunities.

She took me to work, making visible to me, the career potential opportunities for me in the future. Maureen introduced me to educational history through travel, and most importantly, made me smile.

Having Maureen as my Big for 9 years helped assist in my development as a young person, creating the atmosphere for me to grow, into the servant-hearted person I am today.

Maureen and Melissa sitting on a boat with blue seats, smiling at the camera.


Over the years of being connected to Maureen as her Little, we attended many BBBS events. One in particular I recall was the Benefit Dinner a few years after our match.

My memory of that evening, as I stared around the room in awe of the support that the community members gave, made me realize that without the community’s support, I would never have known Maureen.

When I tell you how instrumental my Big was in my life, it is not an overstatement.

Melissa and Maureen outside wearing hoodies, smiling at the camera with their arms around one another's shoulders.


Over the next 60 days, starting on September 1, Big Brothers Big Sisters is working to recruit 60 new mentors to match the 100+ young people currently waiting for a mentor, just like I was. 

You can make a difference by sharing 2 hours twice per month, just like Maureen did. Be one of the 60. Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ programs and the commitment at