My Turn, Jessie Cooley, Program Specialist

Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh


May 17, 2017, The Greenfield Recorder

 Have you ever stood at the edge of a lake or river, thrown a pebble with just the right angle and force into the water, and watched it skip across the surface? I can close my eyes and picture it now, that beautiful pattern in the water and the satisfaction of watching the ripple effect of one tiny stone, and one seemingly small action. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we get to see that kind of impact frequently, as our mentoring programs have a powerful effect on young people, their mentors, their families, and the larger community. And just like with skipping stones, the ripple sometimes goes so far, it blows us all away.

This is what happened with Big Brother Jason Jarvis. Jason grew up in Buckland and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program as a kid. He was a Little Brother matched with a student at Deerfield Academy, Justin, and they spent Friday nights together having fun on the DA campus. Jason recalls that Justin’s friendship and consistent, one-on-one attention created an important support system for him. Their match officially ended when Justin went off to college, but they stayed in touch. Jason went on to graduate from Franklin County Technical School, find a job he loves as an electrician, and join the U.S. Army National Guard. He bought his own home at age 22 and is deeply involved in his community, volunteering at his church, and as a firefighter in Shelburne Falls. Jason and his Big Brother Justin stayed in contact throughout all these years, and their bond remains strong, though Justin now lives in the Boston area. When he was 23, Jason decided it was time for him to become a Big Brother himself, and in October 2015 he was matched with Chris, a 6-year old boy who lives in Greenfield with his great-grandmother, Judy. Jason and Chris became instant buddies, spending countless hours together fishing, Chris’ favorite activity. Jason also wanted to introduce Chris to all kinds of new activities and adventures, so they went hiking and apple-picking, to a locomotive show at the Big E and the Basketball Hall of Fame. Jason taught Chris how to ski at Berkshire East, and how to change a tire, after they got a flat on their way home from an outing. Chris adores Jason, calling him “the nicest guy I ever met!” Judy sings Jason’s praises too, and is so grateful for his dedication to her great-grandson.

Jason and Chris

One year after being matched with Chris, Jason learned his Army unit was going to be deployed. He thoughtfully discussed this with us at Big Brothers Big Sisters and with Judy, and decided to find a volunteer who could step in for him while he is away. He did not want Chris to be without a Big Brother for so long, and he knew Chris would be worried about him during the deployment and would likely need some extra support. Jason found a wonderful solution in Bob Carmody, a friend and mentor figure for Jason who was happy to help out. Bob is a father of three grown children, a police officer, and an avid outdoorsman. After Jason, Bob and Chris went fishing a few times together, everyone decided that Bob would be perfect to step in as Chris’ new Big Brother. Bob talked it over with his wife and children, went through the Big Brothers Big Sisters application process, and Judy happily approved the new match. At Jason’s send-off party before his deployment, Chris and Judy were there, Bob and his family were there, and Justin made a surprise appearance too! Jason was able to introduce his Big Brother from years ago to his own Little Brother, and the image of all three standing together warms my heart and makes me grateful beyond measure.

I am grateful to Justin for being the first pebble skipping into the water, a high school student who volunteered every Friday evening for a year and half, offering his time and friendship to a child in his community. Little did he know that this child would pay it forward years later, and would do so with such heart and commitment to his own mentee. Now that Bob has stepped up to keep the momentum going, we know that Chris continues to be cared for and supported. Thank you Justin, Jason and Bob!

Chris and BobWe also thank Judy for being the solid and loving foundation for Chris at home, and Chris for going with the flow and being a fantastic Little Brother! In another heartwarming turn, Chris’s entire class at Newton Elementary School created a care package with letters from each student to send to Jason overseas. We all send our gratitude and good wishes to Jason for a safe journey ahead. When he returns from deployment next year, we know that Jason, Bob and Chris will have lots of fun on fishing expeditions together, and maybe they’ll even toss some stones into the water, and see how far they go…

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, we have been making high-quality, long-lasting mentoring matches for 50 years, and we thank all our Bigs and Littles, both past and present! You show us that one seemingly small act can have a BIG ripple effect, and we can’t wait to see what happens next?

Jessie Cooley has worked in the Mentoring field for over a decade.

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