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Big Spotlight: Joe Sellens

Check out our #BigSpotlight featuring Shawnee County Big, Joe Sellens! He is a consistent, reliable friend to his Little, Aidan, whether it's grabbing an ice cream or sitting down to talk. The two have been matched since July 21, 2020.

What do you love most about being a Big? You know, I get as much out of being a Big as my Little does being a Little. spending the time together takes me back to the days with my own son, and how much fun we had. Having him around gets me out of my shell, and helps me feel like I am still contributing something positive to the world we live in.

What is your favorite match activity you have done together?

That is a hard one because we have been to so many places and have been a part of many different activities, but probably the most rewarding time is the time spent in the shop working on a small project, or out in the back yard simply tossing a football. Those are the times when I get a chance to talk one-on-one and listen and give advice where I can. We all had challenges growing up, but the pressures kids face these days are unbelievable, and many just want someone to listen to them and to be told they are not alone.

Have you guys developed any traditions?

Ice cream...definitely ice cream each week before heading home. I don't think either one of us would know what to do with ourselves without stopping for that small dish!

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your Little since being matched?

I would have to say the physical, mental and emotional growth. My little has physically grown what seems like 12 inches in the last year, but beyond that, I see a lot of positive change in his level of maturity and compassion for his fellow man.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to a new Big or someone considering becoming a Big?

Don't overthink it. I think a lot of folks worry about the commitment level for being a Big, and while I certainly agree there is a personal commitment you need to make, it is not as intrusive as a lot of people fear. It's not about finding things to do each week, buying tickets to theme parks, or making a big production of the time you spend together. Most of these kids are just looking for someone to simply spend time with and someone to talk to. As a Big, you need to be mindful of the role you play in these kids' lives. They look up to you, they use you as a role model, and you have to be prepared for that. They need stability and routine, so set a schedule and stick to it, but the time you spend together can just be hanging out in the backyard, hiking a trail, playing a video game or cooking a meal. I guarantee the time will fly by no matter what you do, and you will get as much joy out of the time as your little does.

What would you say are the keys to success for being a Big?

2 things: Being a good listener and consistency. Many of these kids have led a bit of a chaotic life, and consistency is key. Give them something to look forward to, and then spend the time concentrating on them. Sometimes life can get in the way of our plans, but cancelling out or not showing up for your time just adds another layer of disappointment they don't need. As a Big, you are their "rock," their level of consistency, and the one they know they can turn to for help. Maybe the help is just with homework, or it's with a different social issue, but you can't be their Big, if you are not there.

What is one thing you hope your Little learns from you?

I always feel like I learn more from him than he learns from me, but I hope he learns the payoff of hard work and the core values I try to pass along.

Thank you for being a great mentor and friend, Joe! To learn more about becoming a volunteer mentor (Big), click ,here.