Big Brothers Big Sisters Start Something Breakfast 2012

Last Thursday, May 17, we had the opportunity to attend the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Richmond & Tri-Cities’ annual Start Something breakfast. Hosted at the Jefferson Hotel, it was an extremely powerful event, and the continental breakfast wasn’t bad either.

Board President Alexander Macauley opened the event, welcoming us all. He spoke briefly, and called the first speaker, Rebecca Campbell and her daughter, Keisha to the stage. Keisha, currently a Little (Little Sister), was adopted by Rebecca as a young child. Sometime after her adoption, she learned that Keisha was also living with Aspergers, a form of autism which primarily effects social interaction. Speaking from a mother’s perspective, Rebecca was so excited to tell us about how positive of an impact being involved with BBBS has had on her daughter – and so was Keisha. She sounded so happy when she was telling us about a recent trip her Big had taken her on to the Federal Reserve downtown, noting that she “saw how the money was made”. It was very evident in the way she spoke that her involvement in the program has meant the world to her.

The next speaker was Christy Howard, telling us about the difference being a Little has made in her son, Tristan’s life.  Giving us an overview of the mission and future of BBBS, Christy, a single mother and Board member with BBBS, struggled for some time with getting Tristan involved. She said that when Tristan was in the process of being matched to a Big, he was waiting in line behind 200 others. Her vision for BBBS is to have so many volunteers that they are on the waiting list for a match.  After 2 years, Tristan was finally matched with a mentor, and she says the change in her son since has all been for the better. Tristan, 13, and his Big frequently dine together at Taco Bell (a place forbidden by their mother and girlfriend respectively), discussing friends, girls, and everything else that’s important to someone his age. Christy was also quick to remind us that the relationships between Bigs and Littles are mutually beneficial – sometimes more so on behalf of the Big.

The man who took the stage next no longer needs introduction in Richmond – VCU Head Basketball Coach Shaka Smart. Shaka explained to us that when he was growing up, he was also involved as a Little Brother. He discussed how helpful it was getting him through some tough times – his family environment as a child left some to be desired. He uses much of what he learned when he was a child in the way that he coaches today. He explained that he and the other coaches spend more time with their players off the court than they do on, assuring us that it’s the personal investment made in the players that has brought them the recent success. Coach Smart’s mission with his players is trying to instill a mentality in them of appreciation over entitlement.

Next to the stage was Ron Beauford and his Little Brother, Artrayle. Ron, who is originally from New York, gave another great personal story of how he was involved with BBBS as a youth and how it saved him a lot of things that would have only stood to complicate his life. He has invested himself back into the program with Artrayle as a result, and now both are benefitting in a huge way. They even had the opportunity of being interviewed on television for one of the previous BBBS annual Duck Races on the James.

Board Member Jim Riley closed the event with a powerful story. He is Big Brother to Isaiah, an 8 year old at Dumbarton Elementary. Jim told us that Isaiah has the most unique personality for someone his age, making it sound like he’s so much larger than his physical stature. He explained to us that Isaiah is a child who is 8 years old, lives in a single-parent home, and is facing the fearful likelihood that for the third time in his young life, he will have nowhere to call home, and that even through his tough exterior and large persona, he knows that underneath he’s an 8 year old boy and he’s scared. He’s lucky to have Jim to be there for him, especially during this time of uncertainty as what he knows changes again. He gave great reason to consider involvement on an individual level, and emotionally, his story of Isaiah’s situation was a great argument for it.

In the end, the breakfast was a huge success for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, but also for the community. It stood as a testament to highlight the strengths and achievements of this great organization, as well as their needs now. They were able to raise $103,000 from the event, which will go to keeping things moving.  Hopefully they will also receive an influx of volunteers, ready to commit to being Bigs, and who knows – maybe sometime soon they’ll be taking their numbers to wait in line.

If you would like to familiarize yourself further with this great organization and what they have to offer, or if you would like to know more about becoming a Big Brother or Sister yourself, please visit their website at