Ben De Leon, ’04, meets a few times a month with Anthony, his Little Brother in Big Brothers Big Sisters. Ben is the national organization’s 2009 Big Brother of the Year.
Photo credit: Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas
Big Brothers Big Sisters recognized the 2009 Big Brother of the Year and Big Sister of the Year at its National Conference on June 16, 2009. Ben De Leon, a 2004 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, was honored at the ceremony.
The “Bigs of the Year” are long-term mentors whose volunteer service exemplifies how Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor-based volunteer mentoring network, improves the odds for more than 255,000 of America’s most vulnerable children.
De Leon, an Austin, Texas, attorney was matched three years ago with now ten-year old Anthony. The 2009 Big Sister of the Year is Debbie Groulik of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who was matched with her now eighteen-year-old Little Sister, Jocelyn, for nearly ten years.
“While we have served children for more than 100 years, this year’s Bigs of the Year demonstrate that we are more relevant than ever, particularly as the economy leaves more families in need of support,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President and CEO Judy Vredenburgh. “Many of our Littles are from single-parent homes, families that struggle with poverty or households where a parent is incarcerated. Our Big Brother’s impact on his Little Brother illustrates the importance of our recently launched Campaign for Men, an effort to become more engaged in African American and Hispanic communities so that we can serve more boys who disproportionately represent the children ready to be matched.”
When De Leon met Anthony for a short-term mentoring program through his church three years ago, he discovered that the child had been waiting to be matched with a Big Brother. Impressed with how well they interacted, Anthony’s grandmother put De Leon in contact with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. She wanted to make the friendship official and ensure the mentoring relationship had the necessary support that would make it last.
“Ben has been a reliable, trusted and exciting addition to Anthony’s life. They get together several times a month and enjoy visiting book stores, attending sports events, spending time at the lake, and various other activities,” said Jeni Findley, Senior Match Support Specialist at the Central Texas agency.
Anthony lives with his grandmother and grandfather, who suffers from arthritis and is unable to enjoy many physical activities with the youngster. He says with his Big Brother, he’s able to share sports activities, have someone to help him with homework and have a trusted adult to talk to about anything. Working with his match support specialist, De Leon makes sure Anthony’s family has resources to give his Little Brother every opportunity to succeed.
“I am hopeful that I can continue to advance the organization’s mission of getting more mentors, African-American and Hispanic males in particular to step up and make a difference to so many deserving, at-risk youth who can benefit in so many ways from Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said De Leon.
Kelly Williams, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 471-7330, email@example.com