2021 National Big and Little of the Year are Right Here in Pittsburgh!

WE knew all along that they were awesome – now the whole country knows, as well! Congratulations to Big Brother Mark and his little brother, Eric, on being named the 2021 national Big and Little of Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America! Mark and Eric were selected for their inspiring story, progress, and dedication to the program. They were selected out of about 280,000 other volunteers in the BBBS program.

We’re thrilled to be able to celebrate the unique connections and relationships that are made through Big Brothers Big Sisters. We truly understand and recognize how important these mentor relationships have been for the development and encouragement of our youth. Out of thousands of Big/Little matches, we’re honoring Mark and Eric and believe they are both true testaments to our organization’s strength and impact,” said Artis Stevens, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Here's their story:

“My Big Brother Mark helped me redirect the sadness that I had after the loss of my dad. Mark turned the light back on in my heart.”

Little Brother Eric was just 7-years-old when his father passed away. His aunt reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh hoping that a mentor would be someone Eric could open up to and trust, and he found that in Mark, who works in community affairs at a local bank. In fifth grade, Eric invited Mark to his school for ‘Take Your Father to School Day’ and when his classmates questioned Eric and Mark’s connection to one another since they weren’t the same race, Eric simply replied, he’s ‘My Big Brother’.

The conversations surrounding race aren’t as simple when you’re in high school.

In 2020, during Eric’s junior year, in addition to the normal stressors of classwork, Eric was coping with the pandemic, family members who died from COVID-19, the challenges of social distancing, and the racial unrest across the country. In fact, Eric witnessed several racial incidents at his school. Mark was there to listen, sometimes not knowing exactly what to say, but to offer support as an ally, attending forums and meetings surrounding the difficult conversations about racism. What Eric appreciated the most is that Mark never pretended to understand the struggles Eric faced as a young Black man, but was there to learn and grow, too.  “Eric has become a young leader in the fight for racial justice,” said Mark. “I look up to him in more ways than I ever thought I would.”

When Eric heads to college, he’ll play football, but his ultimate goal is to become a math teacher. He’ll have more than basic math facts to share with his students. He wants to remind kids what his 10-year plus friendship—now brotherhood--with Mark has taught him: “You don’t have to be alike to be a great Big/Little match, learning to understand each other’s views can be a good thing and trust is the hurdle to get over it, to make it work.”

 Check out the video of this great pair!