Our Stories

Big and Little Match Relationship Thrives after 13 Years, Many Life Transitions

“She’s always been there. She was a friend when I needed one,” said Little Sister Caitlin. “It has been a lot of fun the last 13 years.”

Big Sister Kayla Lonnon began mentoring Caitlin when she was in the 1st grade. Their match began in the site-based program (aka Bigs in Schools) and Kayla has, in her own words, seamlessly transitioned with Caitlin from elementary to middle school, then to an alternative school to high school and now college.

Kayla met with Caitlin regularly at school, encouraging her academically and socially. Caitlin shared that having Kayla there during those transitions was important: “I was scared to go to different schools. She was a positive and encouraging person there to eat lunch with me once a week.”

Caitlin graduated from high school in May 2019 and Kayla was there to celebrate with her. Kayla shared, “I was so proud. There was a time she was struggling and didn’t seem to be interested in school but then, while in high school, she went to North Central Kansas Technical College to get her CNA.” Caitlin is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Fort Hays State University.

When Caitlin graduated from high school, she chose to continue her match with Kayla as she entered adulthood and they transitioned to the community-based program. Kayla felt excited that Caitlin chose to officially continue their match. She recounted times in their match that Caitlin was quiet, and Kayla would ask her if she wanted her to come back and she always said “yes.” Kayla said as long as Caitlin said yes to keeping their match relationship going, she would be that constant person in her life to encourage her to her full potential.

Other transitions that have occurred for the match are Big Sister Kayla having her own children, Mason and Claire, and Little Sister Caitlin being able to be a part of their lives. Kayla’s children enjoy getting together and going to the movies with Caitlin and their mom. Kayla said, “What has surprised me is how much I’ve grown from my experience. My co-worker and I were looking for volunteer opportunities and said let’s sign up. I know I’ve made an impact, but I don’t know if she [Caitlin] knows she has made an impact on me, too.”

“What makes Kayla a really great Big? She is really caring, always takes an interest in my life, and is fun, too,” said Caitlin. Caitlin admires Kayla for being so involved in our community and in her kids’ lives. Kayla actively supports Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters not only by mentoring Caitlin, but by participating in KSBBBS’ annual For Kids’ Sake campaign and the Hays Duck Derby and by sharing her experience of being a Big with friends and co-workers.

What advice would you give people thinking about mentoring?

Little Sister Caitlin shared, “The relationship you grow with your Little is treasurable. You will always have someone who looks up to you.”

To Big Sister Kayla mentoring is “being a positive role model – a support – that someone may not have elsewhere, a consistent in their life they can rely on.”

You can make an impact on a youth facing adversity TODAY by filling out an inquiry form at kansasbigs.org/be-a-big