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Mentoring Agency Reaches Goal of Recruiting 100 Mentors in 100 Days

Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN recruits 100 new mentors, and with its success, decides to extend campaign to recruit additional mentors specifically for Mentor 2.0 Program.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Knoxville, TN. (July 31, 2017) – Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN (BBBSETN), along with the Save Our Sons organization, is pleased to announce that it has met its goal of recruiting 100 Mentors in 100 Days. By gaining 100 new mentors, the wait time for children on the waiting list will decrease and a majority of the children will be matched with a Big Brother or a Big Sister.

“The City of Knoxville’s Save Our Sons Initiative celebrates the success of our partner’s ‘100 Mentors in 100 Days’ campaign. Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee contributes to positive outcomes for young men and boys of color on a daily basis and their efforts to secure mentors for 100 additional youth highlight their commitment to serving the community,” said City of Knoxville Community Relations Director, Avice Reid. “Statistics show that youth participating in mentoring programs are more likely to stay in school; perform better in school; are less likely to participate in gangs; and are less likely to be involved with drugs, delinquency and the justice system. Mentoring is a strategy that makes sense and SOS looks forward to a long and beneficial partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters that exposes young men to the right kind of adult role models.”

Because of its success, BBBSETN has decided to extend the campaign to recruit additional mentors specifically for its Mentor 2.0 Program. Mentor 2.0 is a technology-enhanced one-to-one mentoring program that provides trans-formative college access support for low-income and first generation high school students. This program makes it easier than ever to become a Big through weekly online communication and monthly in-person meetings.

“The agency is in need of 75 volunteers to mentor the incoming Freshman class at South-Doyle High School starting this Fall. Mentors play a vital role in the lives of these students as they work towards college and career success,” said Whitney Baker, BBBSETN Mentor 2.0 Director.

The campaign’s extension will include BBBSETN and Save Our Sons partnering with the Divine Nine – Barber Shop Project, in an effort to intensify the efforts to recruit more Men of Color and Mentor 2.0 volunteers. The campaign will continue through-out the month of August.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN
Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee (Tennesseebig.org) provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one‐to‐one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Through these relationships, children achieve success throughout their lives. Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee served more than 800 children in 2016. Through one-to-one mentoring relationships, these children make better decisions about their lives, have a better attitude about school and choose to avoid risky behaviors.

Alli Damas
Marketing and Events Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN
865.523.9455
adamas@tennesseebig.org

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TN Tennis To Partner With BBBS For Golf Classic

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee announced that the Big Brothers Big Sisters Golf Classic with Tennessee Tennis, presented by Regal Entertainment Group and EdFinancial, will be held on Friday, October 27, 2017 at Avalon Golf Course in Lenoir City, Tenn.

This year’s tournament will tee off in an 8:30 a.m. ET shotgun start. A program and luncheon will be held at 1:30 p.m. Teams for the tournament will be comprised of a four-person group with the team prizes awarded to the top finishers.

All participants will receive a Babolat junior tennis racquet and have an opportunity to win $50,000.

“Chris Woodruff and I were both fortunate to have been guided by parents who gave us every opportunity to be successful in our lives,” women’s tennis head coach Alison Ojeda said. “It was their leadership and positive encouragement that gave us the ability to pursue excellence. Whether it is on the tennis court, in the classroom or in the community, we both believe that we win with people.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization who believes that every child has the ability to succeed and thrive in life. Through positive relationships, they change children’s lives for the better. Chris and I are honored to be a part of their mission.”

Proceeds will support one-on-one mentoring for children served through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring model is an evidence-based prevention and intervention strategy that is helping to improve the odds for children who face adversity. Through the high-quality one-to-one mentoring program, children are achieving educational success, reaching for higher aspirations, and avoiding risky behaviors.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is honored to partner with the Tennessee Tennis program for this year’s Golf Classic,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee Chief Executive Officer Doug Kose. “The outing will be a chance to interact with the tennis coaches and student-athletes to have a fun day while raising funds for a great organization. We are also very appreciative of Regal Entertainment Group and EdFinancial, both serving as title sponsors for this year’s event. All of the funds raised will be used to support mentoring programs for the at-risk youth we serve in the community.”

For more information on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Golf Classic with Tennessee Tennis, contact Alli Damas at adamas@tennesseebig.org or call 865-523-9455. To register, visit BBBSGolfClassic.com.

About Tennessee Women’s Tennis Head Coach Alison Ojeda
Coming off her first year at the helm on Rocky Top, Tennessee Head Coach Alison Ojeda led the Volunteers to one of their most productive seasons in recent years. Tennessee had its most wins (19) and highest ITA ranking (12th) since 2011. The Big Orange also earned their first berth in the NCAA Championships since 2014, advancing to the second round.

Ojeda played a major role in helping senior Brittany Lindl take her game to the next level and become the top player in the singles lineup, where she had seven ranked wins on the season. Lindl garnered second-team All-SEC honors, the ITA Ohio Valley Region’s Most Improved Senior Award and a bid to the NCAA Singles Championships.

Improved on-court performance wasn’t the only bright spot for Tennessee women’s tennis this season, as Ojeda also emphasized community outreach in the Knoxville area, which earned Tennessee a share of its first-ever national ITA Community Service Award.

About Tennessee Men’s Tennis Head Coach Chris Woodruff
Chris Woodruff was named the head coach of the Tennessee men’s program in May 2017 after a lifetime of representing Knoxville and the University of Tennessee at the highest levels of tennis. He won the Vols’ first NCAA singles title and has been on staff since ending his professional tennis career in 2002.

Growing up in Knoxville, he played for the Vols for two seasons and began his professional career in 1993 after ending the year No. 1 in college. On tour, he reached as high as No. 29 in the ATP World Tour Rankings and won a pair of titles, including the 1997 Canada Masters. He defeated seven players who had held the No. 1 world ranking.

As a coach for the Vols, Woodruff has mentored three No. 1-ranked singles players and three top-ranked doubles teams, including 2014 NCAA doubles champions Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese. Tennessee won back-to-back SEC titles in 2010 and 2011 and reached the 2010 NCAA final.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring organization, holds itself accountable for children in its program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as educational success; avoidance of risky behaviors; and higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring model is an evidence-based prevention and intervention strategy that is helping to improve the odds for children who face adversity.

Big Brothers Big Sisters cannot do it alone. With an investment of financial resources, Big Brothers Big Sisters can provide a key service to Tennesseans — changing children’s attitudes resulting in improved families and communities and leading to greater educational attainment for children served through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Summary, released in 2012, substantiates that its mentoring programs are evidence-based, proven, positive academic, socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes for youth in areas linked to high school graduation, avoidance of juvenile delinquency and college or job readiness. Top-quality evidence-based practices must be a part of any serious long-term strategy for moving our communities and our nation forward.

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides children facing adversity, often those of single or low-income households or families where a parent is incarcerated or serving in the military, with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. This mission has been the cornerstone of the East Tennessee organization’s 47-year history.

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Radio Systems Corporation Supports Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Mentoring Program

Knoxville, TN. (July 14th, 2017)  –Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee (BBBSETN) is pleased to announce it has received funding to support its efforts in providing children facing adversity with caring and safe mentors.

Radio Systems Corporation awarded $10,000 to BBBSETN to support its work in matching children on the waiting list with new mentors and to support existing mentoring relationships. “Big Brothers Big Sisters is very appreciative of the support of one-to-one mentoring for at risk youth from Radio Systems Corporation and their Philanthropy Committee. We are able to serve more children in our local communities due to great corporate partners like Radio Systems,” says Doug Kose, BBBSETN’s CEO.

Mentoring helps improve the likelihood that a child will perform better in school, complete high school and develop important social competencies. Children and young adults who perform well in school and stay out of trouble often report that they have positive adult role models in their lives and that these individuals have helped guide them to make good decisions.

The Radio System Corporation’s grant helps BBBSETN continue to support and sustain matches throughout their duration. Over the course of the match, staff provide ongoing support and supervision to the Big, the Little and the Little’s family. Training and advice is also offered to help ensure that the match is successful for everyone involved.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN
Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee (Tennesseebig.org) provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one‐to‐one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Through these relationships, children achieve success throughout their lives. Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee served more than 800 children in 2016. Through one-to-one mentoring relationships, these children make better decisions about their lives, have a better attitude about school and choose to avoid risky behaviors.

Alli Damas
Marketing and Events Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN
865.523.9455
adamas@tennesseebig.org

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Big Brothers Big Sisters Inducts High Profile Individuals into Hall of Fame, Inaugural Scholarship Recipients Announced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

KNOXVILLE, TN (May 15, 2017) – Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee (BBBSETN) hosted an Inaugural Hall of Fame and Scholarship Award Dinner on May 4th. The event, emceed by Voice of the Vols, Bob Kesling, took place at Neyland Stadium in the Lauricella Center. Hall of Fame inductees included Bill Jolly, Al Williams and Bo Shafer. The BBBSETN Hall of Fame is a platform to recognize those individuals who have been instrumental in providing direction, energy and support to the shaping of BBBSETN since its inception in 1970.

Bo Shafer was one of the co-founders of the organization in 1970 and provided the framework for the agency to serve thousands of children over the past 47 years. Bo was also the first Big Brother, Board Member, Fundraiser and Donor to the agency. Bill Jolly has been a Board Member, Board President, Big Brother to two different Littles, Donor and the founder and champion of the Big Swim, Big Swim II and Big Swim III. Al Williams, the CFO at Bush Beans has been a Board Member on two separate six-year terms, Board President, Big Brother, Donor and author to the book ‘A Friend Indeed’, which all of the proceeds raised from the sale of the book went to BBBS.

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Hall of Fame Inductees:  (L to R) Al Williams, Bo Shafer, and Bill Jolly.

The agency also celebrated and recognized graduating Littles, who are continuing their post-secondary education and will receive a Scholarship from the agency for the next four years. The three scholarship recipients are Katonteoia ‘Kat’ Shields, Jakese Brown and Grayson McGinnis.

Kat Shields has been matched with her Big Sister, Mebbie Jackson, for 10 years! Kat will graduate from Paul Kelly Volunteer Academy in May and plans to attend Pellissippi State and eventually become a Veterinarian. Jakese Brown has been matched with his Big Brother, Evan Hawkins, for three years. Jakese will graduate from Austin East High School in May and attend TN College of Applied Technology to become an automotive technician. Grayson McGinnis has been matched with his Big Brother, Tyler Cornell, for four years and will graduate from L&N Stem Academy in May. He has been accepted at MTSU and plans to be an athletic trainer.

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Scholarship Recipients (L to R): Jakese Brown, Kat Shields, and Grayson McGinnis.

The agency serves over 850 youth annually and hopes to increase the number of youth being served in the following years. For information on the agency and how to volunteer, visit www.TennesseeBig.org or call (865) 523-2179.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN
It is Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN (BBBSETN)’s mission to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Most children served by BBBSETN are in single-parent and low-income families or households where a parent is incarcerated. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, BBBSETN makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”).

Contact: Doug Kose
(865) 243-3879
dkose@TennesseeBig.org

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Big Brothers Big Sisters Looks to Recruit 100 Mentors in 100 days

Mary Scott, WBIR 12:08 PM. EDT April 18, 2017

Next month Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee is taking on one it’s biggest challenges yet: recruiting 100 mentors in 100 days.

The non-profit matches children ages 6-14 with volunteer mentors who are asked to hang out with their “little” twice a month. Recruiting male volunteers has been a consistent challenge for the non-profit both here and across the country.

“We have so many boys on the waiting list. When you look at our waiting list, 65 percent are boys 35% are girls and they {boys} can wait up to a year or longer to get a big brother,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee CEO Doug Kose.

Kose said he sees boys blaming themselves for not being able to get a big brother.

“At some point they say, ‘Why doesn’t anyone want to be my big brother? What’s wrong with me?’  That’s not the case at all. We don’t have enough men come through the funnel to be volunteers,” he explained.

Jesse Arcoren, 10, has been on the waiting list for the last nine months.

“The reason why I want a big brother is that I have no one to play with,” Arcoren, a fourth grader at Shannondale Elementary, said.

His mom found him a pair of golf clubs at a yard sale and he’s been teaching himself how to play in his yard. He also loves baseball, basketball, fishing, hiking, and climbing trees.

Jesse and his mom, Christina Shipley, moved here four years ago from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Christina tries her best to keep up with his growing love of the outdoors and adventure.

“Where I’ve gotten sick with my health problems, I’ve not gotten to do all the active stuff,” Shipley said, “The biggest missing chunk has been not having a male role model. That’s what I see. I think it really takes a village to raise a child.”

Jesse is adjusting now, but he had a difficult time at first. His mom said he was bullied for having long hair, a tradition in Native American culture.

“He was actually severely bullied because he was different being Native American. He actually has some auditory processing issues that made him a little bit different. Kids just didn’t understand,”
she said.

Jesse already realizes that he could learn from a big brother and he said while he might be shy at first, he would eventually open up.

“I would talk to him like my actual brother. He and me would have the same kind of traits. I would like it because he could teach me lots of things. What to do and not,” he said.

You can learn more about how to be a big brother or sister or nominate a child here.

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee Recognized with National Gold Standard Award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN (BBBSETN) has been named a 2016 Gold Standard Agency by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA). This honor was awarded to 16 out of over 300 Big Brother Big Sisters agencies nationwide. The Gold Standard Award is a way for BBBSA to recognize agencies that have demonstrated exemplarily high achievement and measured quality outcomes for the children and families they serve in their communities.

“I am extremely proud of our staff’s hard work in achieving this national honor”, said Doug Kose, CEO of BBBSETN. We are fortunate to live in a community that cares about children and supports our work to make a difference in the lives of children for the better, forever.”

BBBSETN was the only affiliate agency in Tennessee to receive this elite distinction.

The guidelines for being a Gold Standard Agency include; an increase in number of children served, high rates of Match Support, revenue growth of at least 5% and service to at least 150 children. BBBSETN currently served 801 of its community’s most at-risk children during the 2015-16 service year.

The agency increased its revenue by 16% due to a generous bequest gift, strong community support for its new 5-year individual giving campaign, “Creating Big Futures” and funding to launch a new scholarship fund for graduating Littles. Through successful volunteer recruitment and the launch of the Mentor 2.0 program at South Doyle High School, the agency also created more life-changing friendships between Bigs with Littles.

“I am so pleased with this truly remarkable achievement by our team.  Less than 5% of BBBS agencies get chosen for the Gold Standard out of over 300 nationwide. We have a remarkable team of staff and tremendous amount of board support that make all these things possible. Together, we are making this community better one child at a time”, remarked BBBSETN Board President, Al Williams.

BBBSETN will be recognized in front of its peers during the 2017 Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference in San Diego, California this June. This award also places the organization in the running for Agency of the Year and Board of the Year, which will be announced at the conference.

BBBSETN thanks its board members, volunteers, donors, families, staff, Bigs and Littles for the dedication, commitment, hard work and support they provide to the organization year round.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN
It is Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN (BBBSETN)’s  mission to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Most children served by BBBSETN are in single-parent and low-income families or households where a parent is incarcerated. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, BBBSETN makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”). It is BBBSETN’s vision to facilitate the success of children living right here in our community.

To see how you can get involved with BBBSETN call 865.523.2179 or visit TennesseeBig.org.

Contact
Alli Damas
Marketing and Events Director
adamas@tennesseebig.org
865.523.9455

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Scholarship Fund Now Available to Graduating Littles

The BBBSETN Scholarship Fund is designed to assist deserving “Littles” that wish to pursue additional education after high school.  The scholarship will be applied toward the student’s financial post-secondary educational expenses.

If you wish to apply, please complete the application and include all required attachments. All applications are due NO LATER THAN March 31, 2017. This provides our scholarship committee ample time to evaluate and determine the recipient(s). Scholarship recipient(s) will be honored during a special dinner on May 4, 2017. Recipient(s) will be notified well in advance of the dinner on May 4 so they can make plans to attend.

Purpose

  • To extend support from Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN (BBBSETN) beyond high school, continuing to assist students in achieving their full potential.
  • To provide financial assistance to graduating “Littles,” enabling them to further their education in a public or private college program, technical college or trade school.
  • To recognize “Littles” who have shown notable personal and academic achievement in high school.
  • To encourage high school “Littles” who are sophomores, juniors, and seniors to complete high school and pursue further education.

Eligibility

  • Nominee must successfully have completed a minimum of 12 months in BBBSETN after age 14.
  • Nominee must have obtained (or will finish this spring) a high school diploma or a GED certificate.
  • Nominee must have applied to a 2-year or 4‑year accredited college or university program, accredited technical college or trade school and intend to enroll within one year of the application deadline.
  • Nominee must enroll in a minimum of 6 semester hours or equivalent.
  • Nominee must have a signed media release on file with the BBBSETN.

For more information regarding the application, award amount and award selection please refer to the application itself. The application can be downloaded here: Scholarship Application
Please submit the completed application to the address noted below:

Big Brothers Big Sisters East TN
Attn: Scholarship Committee
318 N. Gay Street, Ste 100
Knoxville, TN 37917
Fax: 865.524.3466

Reminder, applications should be received in the office no later than Friday, March 31, 2017

If there are any questions, please call Kara at 865.523.2179

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BBBS Hall of Fame and Scholarship night

On May 4th 2017, Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN (BBBSETN) will host the First Annual Hall of Fame and Scholarship Night. Together with guest, the agency will celebrate and recognize graduating Littles and one individual in the community who has supported the agency in a BIG way! Graduating Littles who are continuing their education will receive a Scholarship from the agency and one supporter will be inducted into the agency’s Hall of Fame.

Scholarship Fund
Graduating Littles who are continuing their education will receive a scholarship to aid in the cost of college. A scholarship fund has been established and donations are welcome. If you wish to make a monetary donation towards the Scholarship Fund, click here.

BBBSETN Hall of Fame
The BBBSETN Hall of Fame is a platform to recognize those individuals who have been instrumental in providing direction, energy and support to the shaping of BBBSETN since its inception in 1970.

The BBBSETN Hall of Fame Committee is seeking nominations for the 2017 BBBSETN Hall of Fame inaugural class. Individuals will be considered whom efforts have resulted in community-wide economic, social and/or cultural benefits that have had a positive impact on BBBSETN.

The Nominee must meet the following criteria:
1. The individual must have made a significant and extraordinary contribution to BBBSETN.
2. The individuals’ achievements and contributions must have had lasting value and importance and must have withstood the test of time.
3. Nominees may be an individual, or individuals and business partners, or families as a single nominee.

To nominate an individual for induction into the BBBSETN Hall of Fame, please complete the nomination form and submit a statement explaining the significant and worthy contributions this individual or organization has made to BBBSETN. Civic and/or philanthropic activities are relevant but not the primary factor in selection.
The statement should be no more than three pages, double-spaced. Please include pertinent information that supports consideration of this organization.

• Supporting letters or documents will be accepted.
• The three-page double spaced statement (as referenced above) and supporting letters and documents cannot exceed 10 pages.
• All materials supporting the nomination will become the property of BBBSETN and will
not be returned.

Nominees selected will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the spring of 2017.

Please complete and return the Hall of Fame Nomination Form and any accompanying documents, by March 15, 2017. Completed forms may be returned via: email to: nominations@TennesseeBig.org or by mail to:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of East TN
Attention: Hall of Fame Selection Committee
The Regas Building
318 N. Gay Street, Ste 100
Knoxville, TN 37917

 

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KAMI Starts Mentoring Push

Jim Gaines , USA TODAY NETWORK  

Five Knoxville nonprofits are teaming up to promote mentoring, seeking to attract more volunteers and serve an additional 1,250 youth over the next year.

The program launched Friday under the umbrella name Knoxville Area Mentoring Initiative. Advocates for the program told their stories and urged public participation during a kickoff event at the Regas Building on Gay Street.

“I think everybody in this room probably had a mentor, or somebody who helped you,” Bob Kesling, lead announcer on the Vol Radio Network, said to the crowd of several dozen. Kesling became a Big Brother seven years ago, unsure initially if he had the time. He’s still in touch with the same young man, who is now in college, Kesling said.

“I will tell you, I have gotten much more out of it than he has,” he said. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.”

KAMI is spearheaded by the Knoxville Leadership Foundation through its program Amachi Knoxville. Other participants are Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee, the Joy of Music School, Girls on the Run of Greater Knoxville and the YMCA of East Tennessee. It will serve an 11-county area in East Tennessee. KAMI is funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant, which the Knoxville Leadership Foundation received, foundation president Chris Martin said. Its primary goal is to recruit more people as mentors; that’s always the hard part, he said.

Other speakers told of their involvement in mentoring programs or how a mentor had affected their own lives. Kristin Farley, WATE-TV anchor; Hallerin Hill, WOKY-FM host; Emily Ann Roberts, “The Voice” finalist; and Dave Serrano, University of Tennessee baseball coach, all urged people to join in.

“What does it take to be a mentor? Maybe an hour a week,” Kesling said.

For information on becoming a mentor, go to knoxmentoring.org.

To view article, click here

 

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Chilling Together: Big Brothers Big Sisters Pair Shares Close Bond

By: , maggie.jones@knoxnews.com, Knoxville News Sentinel December 21, 2016

Rich Brown and Kadir Penn may not look like brothers, but there’s no question they are family.

Brown, senior director of development at University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business, and Penn, a 17-year-old West High School junior, were paired by Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee almost five years ago.

Brown recalled the first time they met at Penn’s grandmother’s house. They immediately had a connection.

“He had just come here (from Atlanta), and they just matched us together,” said Brown, while sitting next to Penn at Whole Foods. “I mean I couldn’t think of a better fit.

“I feel like it’s been really good from the get-go.”

Some staff from Big Brothers Big Sisters were there when they met and went over some ground rules; Brown got to know Penn’s family, and they realized they shared a love of basketball.

“He loves basketball, and that’s something we kind of clicked on right away. I played in high school. I’m a little washed up. I’m not at his skill level, but I can work hard right?” asked Brown.

Penn laughs and shakes his head.

“We’re kind of the same,” said Penn. “We don’t do too much. We just chill.”

Brown and Penn also enjoy watching scary movies and comic book movies together.

“Those kind of movies, I want to watch them. My wife doesn’t like watching them, so I’m like ‘Perfect. I’ll take him. We can spend some time together and watch movies,'” said Brown.

Brown is teaching Penn about future goals and going to college.

“We do a lot practical stuff too … We just went and got him a coat the other day. He didn’t have a coat, and it’s obviously cold,” said Brown.

Their relationship grew slowly, according to Brown, and during the second year they were paired together, Penn moved back to Atlanta for one school year. The two of them stayed in touch throughout the time apart.

“I remember telling my wife like ‘I want to keep talking to him at the very least because it’s not going to hurt anything. I want to be in his life, and I can still do it,'” said Brown.

“We basically just like kept in touch,” said Penn. “I would tell him what was going on … and when I came up here, we just went back to hanging out like nothing happened.”

Almost five years after meeting, they now talk about subjects both lighthearted and serious.

“The other day when I dropped (Penn) off, we sat in my truck and talked for an hour, a pretty real, stripped-down conversation about everything … We definitely wouldn’t have covered nearly those bases at first, obviously, because those were personal things, but I know him and his family situation deeply. I feel like he knows me,” said Brown.

“He knows my personal situations that my friends don’t even know … (he’s) truly my little brother,” added Brown.

“It’s been really good,” said Penn. “He helped me with school and stuff. He helped me understand some other stuff I wanted to know about, like, certain things, and he helps out.”

“If he needed me –and he’s called me before– late at night on a weekday, weeknight, whenever it is, I’ll be there. I’ll do whatever I can. If some kind of trouble happens, I’m there,” said Brown.

Penn helps Brown when he needs it, too, especially with directions.

“My wife would tell you, and he knows too. I’m bad with directions. I ask him for directions … he does help me with directions,” said Brown.

Before becoming a Big Brother, Brown helped with the organization’s fundraiser Bowl for Kids’ Sake and said he wanted to serve as a Big Brother because there was a need.

“Just being a part of it that way, I realized there were a bunch of kids on the waiting list, specifically boys, because most guys just don’t volunteer for things. They’d rather sit on their couch and watch football or play video games, so I decided to sign up,” said Brown, who doesn’t have any kids.

He recently won Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee’s Big Brother of the Year Award at the organization’s holiday party on Nov. 30. The award surprised him.

“There’s never been one time in my life where I’ve been surprised (and) … haven’t had an inclination or felt a feeling of what’s going on,” said Brown. “I was totally (surprised).”

“I thought he knew. I was laughing at him,” said Penn.

During the event, the organization told Brown and Penn’s story, and Penn’s mom spoke about Brown to attendees.

“His mom said some nice things,” said Brown. “(Penn) doesn’t say a lot, but I can see it … it was a good moment to be there with him and his mom. That’s not why you sign up to do something, for an award like that, but it’s nice to know that, you know, the time and the work we’ve put in, whether it’s him at school or me in keeping the relationship whether he’s gone or not … it’s nice to know they reward it.”

“What I’m most proud of is (Penn),” said Brown. “More than any accolades or anything, and I’m going to be incredibly proud when he walks across the stage and graduates, when he gets on a college basketball team because it will happen.”

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee or volunteering, visit www.TennesseeBig.org or call 865-523-2179.

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