Five-years ago when Shannon was matched to her Little Cynthia through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto she had no idea how fast time would fly, and the deep-rooted friendship that she would get out of the program.
This past summer Cynthia turned 18-years-old, effectively ending their official match through the BBBST program. While no longer obligated to stay in touch, Shannon doesn’t see much changing in regards to her relationship with Cynthia.
“We’ll continue to be a part of each other’s lives,” Shannon stated firmly. “We have a friendship that’s rooted in common interest and wanting to know what’s going on with the other person and see them succeed.”
Cynthia and Shannon were first matched shortly after Cynthia’s family moved to Canada. Cynthia was young, learning how to adjust not only to life in Canada, but life in high school.
Shannon joined the BBBST program because of a mantra that had stuck with her; she wanted to leave the world better than when she entered it. She wanted to make a positive impact on someone’s life, to be a role model, and a source of guidance for a young person outside of their family unit.
“It made me think of someone other than myself,” said Shannon. “To put someone else’s needs and priorities ahead of my own. Just to be there unconditionally for her, to always make time for her.”
Their relationship blossomed, fuelled by common interests and support.
Upon reflection, Shannon expressed her gratitude in being able to watch Cynthia grow over the course of their match.
“Just being able to be there through that transition and to watch her lean into her own interests. She’s a gifted pianist, and an incredible artist as well,” said Shannon.
“To watch someone change that much…you forget how much people change when they’re a teenager. These are their formative years when they’re becoming who they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. To be able to watch her change and grow has been such a rewarding experience. To know that I played a tiny role in that has been super rewarding.”
From first boyfriends to teenage movies to learning about the latest social media fad, Shannon recalled feeling like a young person again.
“I got to relive some of the things I loved as a teenager through Cynthia. It’s been really fun to see the world through a 14-year-olds eyes again.”
Cynthia recently enrolled in Parson’s School of Design to pursue her passion for the arts, something that Shannon is thrilled about.
“I’ll always be her biggest champion when it comes to her achievements in art and piano,” said Shannon. “Her biggest cheerleader.”
With Cynthia moving on to life as a post-secondary student and adult, Shannon’s had some time to reflect on her experience as a BIG.
“It’s such a rewarding experience to play a big role in someone’s life because you choose to, not because you have to,” Shannon said.
“Taking that proactive choice to make a difference in the world had such a positive impact on my life. I hope that people will also want to make that choice because the rewards are endless.”