Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | My experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego began nearly two years ago when my wife Lauren and I were on vacation. We met a couple who were involved in the program and hearing their experiences inspired me to learn more.
I’m not new to being a brother, much less a big brother. Born and raised in Rockaway Beach, N.Y., I was the oldest in my family of one sister and two brothers. I was very fortunate to grow up surrounded by a supportive family that afforded me the ability to enjoy being a child. I was active in athletics in high school and went on to play rugby at the University of San Diego where I graduated with a major in business administration and a minor in leadership.
I am an active supporter of children’s charities around San Diego. However, I felt removed from helping children in need of a positive influence to lead them in the right direction in life. These young children are without the support of a stable family and many are ending up on the streets, in jail or worse. That’s when I stepped up as a Big Brother.
After an in-depth matching process, I was introduced to my little brother, Tyler, now nine years old, in May 2003. His father was absent most of his life and his mother was left alone to raise a child in need of a positive male influence. Initially, it took work to break down the barriers that prevented him from opening up to me, but three-to-four months into the process we finally established our comfort zone.
I remember taking Tyler to the batting cages because he had never once picked up a baseball bat. The minute that kid got in the cage he was cracking balls as a right-hander then out of nowhere switched to his left. I had a genuine switch hitter right in front of me. As soon as the season began, I signed Tyler up for Little League near his home and he’s been an active player ever since.
There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for this kid. I realized he needed better male interaction and encouraged his mother to move him to a new school where he now makes better grades. Anything to make Tyler smile is rewarding for me. I remember hearing his reaction when I asked my good friend Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to give my little brother a call just to say “hello.”
I’ve learned, it’s never too late to lend yourself and experiences to a child in need of a positive influence. To say I’m part of the reason this child is off to a fresh start is mind-blowing. As the owner of a large real estate development company, the Sidebar Restaurant/Lounge downtown and another restaurant/lounge due to open early fall 2005, I still find the time to make this child realize he has worth in this life.
Big Brothers Big Sisters works tirelessly to ensure that the hundreds of children waiting for a big brother or big sister find the best mentor and friend for every case. However, their efforts are hindered by a lack of funds to hire staff to expedite the process of matching “bigs” and “littles.”
To help support this effort, I joined the newly formed Young Professional Committee. The YPC is comprised of a core group of individuals with the goal of increasing awareness and raising funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
To help find matches for the hundreds of children in San Diego waiting for a Big Brother or Sister, the YPC will host a chocolate and wine tasting event on April 29 at the San Diego Natural History Museum with proceeds benefiting the agency. I encourage individuals interested in volunteering as a Big or those interested in donating to the cause, please visit www.sdbigs.org.
James Brennan is founder of Halcyon Cos., a real estate development company that focuses on the condominium conversion market.