Mentor Has Experience She Will Never Forget

My name is Alyssa, 27, and I have been a Big Sister to Chearese, 7, for about nine months. Spending time with her and getting to know her, watching as she gets to know herself, exploring and doing fun activities together has been a very positive experience. Chearese was shy and quiet when I first met her, but has since opened up and become very vocal and energetic. She is especially animated when she is having fun and expressing herself freely through art, singing, or dancing in her own way.

I want to share a story about one of my favorite events that we were able to enjoy together. I took Chearese to a Halloween event at a local campground, Camp Newaygo, and we both had a great time. I know Chearese isn't able to attend events like this often, and wanted to treat her to a few special experiences during the fall months and throughout the holiday season. We were able to make a full-size scare crow together for her to put in her yard, pet some animals, join a hay ride, do some crafts, make s'mores over a fire, learn how to use an authentic cider press, walk through some haunted cabins, and she was able to get her face painted with a dragon (which she loved) at the end. One of her favorite activities was running through the hay maze as I chased her. She seemed to really enjoy being able to run around freely in a fun environment like that, while having someone playing and engaging with her who allowed her to be herself. Most of these activities included other adults and children, and while with others she usually displays a sense of politeness and compassion towards them that I have been impressed by.

At the end of the night on the ride home, she said that she always has to miss out on fun things (with her family members and relatives), but she doesn't have to miss out on fun with me. She gave me a big hug and asked if we could go back. I told her we could go back for the Christmas event that was to be held at Camp Newaygo, and we did. That night we saw live reindeer, she had her own time with Santa, and she was welcomed in by a group of girls to sing carols to the attendees, which she really enjoyed.

I thoroughly enjoyed our night at Halloweekend as much as she did and will not forget it. It is one of the many experiences I've had with Chearese that have shown me how to open up, go with the flow, exercise patience, find joy in the bond with a child, and learn to embrace the unknown. It has shown me, and helped me to appreciate, that I can offer something valuable to a child simply by being there, listening, and being present for them.

This story highlights one particularly fun experience we have had together. Chearese's mother reminds me often how grateful she is that I am in her life, and that it is helping her to build her self-esteem and to know that she is liked. While I did not go into this relationship expecting to see any tangible positive impact, I can see that Chearese enjoys her time with me. It is nice to know that her mother has noticed a difference.