While many folks in Boston rose early to celebrate all things Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, Big Sister Association rose early to inspire nearly 200 people from Boston’s prominent corporations and community organizations. Those who attended our first Rise & Inspire Breakfast at the Seaport Hotel in Boston learned about the positive impact mentoring can have not only on the girls we serve, but on their families and communities as well.
Our emcee, Channel 5 news anchor Liz Brunner, gave guests a warm welcome and shared highlights of the work Big Sister did this past year: we served more than 3,000 girls throughout Greater Boston; partnered with more than 50 schools and community sites; and supported an average length of match of 31.5 months in Community-Based Mentoring. She then introduced the audience to keynote speaker Melissa MacDonnell, Vice President and Director of Corporate Affairs at Liberty Mutual. Not only is Liberty Mutual one of Big Sister’s largest funders, but MacDonnell herself created the Liberty Mutual Mentoring Initiative, a $1.5 million strategic effort resulting in research, technical assistance to mentoring programs, and more than 1,700 new mentor-mentee matches in low-income communities throughout Massachusetts. This initiative represents the single largest corporate investment in mentoring in the country.
“Sometimes what we really need to do is just bring in the light: to learn how to lift up young people; to encourage them; to press courage into them; to inspire them to stand up and to speak out for what is right; to teach them the power of their potential. And that’s what a Big Sister does,” said MacDonnell.
The inspiration continued as Wayne Ashley, a single father from Dorchester, took the stage. He spoke about the incredible impact Big Sister Association has had on his family by matching each of his three daughters with her own Big Sister more than a year ago. Mr. Ashley painted a picture of the challenges surrounding his daughters who range in age from nine to 12. He spoke candidly about his their peers’ experimentation with drugs and sex, and the violence his family has witnessed in their own backyard. He also spoke to the less obvious challenges of raising girls while being “clueless about the girlie stuff” his daughters are beginning to discover, such as boys, make-up, and the changes that come with puberty. Finally, he addressed the biggest challenge of all: supporting each of his daughters as they grieved the loss of their mother, who passed away just one month after the girls were matched with their Big Sisters. Each Big Sister supported her Little Sister as she grieved in her own way. As the bonds of friendship continued to grow between the Ashley girls and their Big Sisters, it was clear that each Big Sister was uniquely suited to the needs of her Little Sister. Mr. Ashley noted our social workers’ commitment to finding the right match for all our Little Sisters when he said, “If any of [my] girls were matched with any of each other’s Big Sisters, it just would not have worked. What were the chances of matching all three of my girls and each with the perfect Big Sister too?” This was a sentiment his daughters echoed when they took the stage with their Big Sisters to share why each is the perfect one for her.
Rise & Inspire concluded with Chief Executive Officer, Deborah Re, asking guests to financially support Big Sister’s mentoring programs for girls. A roomful of inspired guests generously gave a total of nearly $46,000.
We would like to extend a “big” thank you to Rise & Inspire sponsor Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, as well as event co-chairs and Big Sister Board members, Carol McKean, Janet Porter, and Laura Cafferty. We would also like to thank our table captains who helped us expand the Big Sister community. We look forward to seeing you all next year as we once again rise and inspire.