Saturday, March 6th, 2021

BBBS long-time mentor wins special honor

Posted: Friday, July 26, 2013

A Fort Wayne, Indiana TV news anchor and a Peoria, Illinois insurance executive are this year’s national Big Sister and Big Brother of the Year. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America selects the winners from hundreds of submissions from the mentoring network’s 340 local agencies across the country. Comcast and NBC Universal, as part of its sponsorship of the 2013 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America National Conference, presented the awards at a gala in Denver on June 25.

Pat Ferrell, matched through Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters, has been Big Brother to 16-year-old Jamir since 2009. Alyssa Ivanson, matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana, has been Big Sister to 18-year-old Jordain since 2007.

“The best proof of our top ‘Bigs’ greatness is their ‘Littles,’” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President and CEO Charles Pierson. “Big Brothers Big Sisters holds itself accountable for specific outcomes, helping youth improve in school, behavior and self-esteem.  The stories of Jamir and Jordain reflect the dedication of their amazing mentors.”

“Pat and Alyssa are national role models for us all, and understand how one-to-one mentoring changes lives for the better,” said Charisse R. Lillie, Vice President of Community Investment for Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast Foundation. “We are honored to partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters in operating the nation’s largest workplace mentoring program, which gives our employees the opportunity to experience firsthand the power of helping our youth succeed."

When Big Brothers Big Sisters introduced Fort Wayne, Indiana WANE-TV health reporter-anchor Alyssa Ivanson to Jordain, she knew almost instantly that there was something extraordinary about the 12-year-old girl. Ivanson noted her new Little Sister was extremely shy and had difficulty making contact with her.  “Throughout the match, Alyssa and Jordain’s parents were aware of Jordain’s challenges, but only recently was Jordain actually diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome by medical experts.”

Ivanson worked closely with her Little Sister’s mother to do everything in their power to help the pre-teen conquer her communication challenges.  She has watched her Little Sister make steady progress, becoming more confident, making eye contact during conversations -- even placing her own order at restaurants.

“It was a steady process that began with scrapbooking.  It’s a hobby we both enjoy and working so closely on something so personal helped build trust,” Ivanson said.

Over the years, the two have attended social functions; gone horseback riding; and attended movies and theatrical performances.  Jordain also joins Ivanson for public appearances her Big Sister makes as part of the community service that comes with her high-profile job.

“I always felt safe with her,” Jordain said. “She’s been extremely supportive when it comes to me, and she also gives me an honest opinion on whatever I ask. I feel like my life would’ve been completely different if I didn’t have Alyssa as a part of it. She’s a great friend and an even better Big Sister.”

“While I was encouraging Jordain to step out of her comfort zone, she was pushing me out of mine.  I wanted to make a difference in a little girl’s life. That little girl ended up changing mine forever,” Ivanson said.

“The magnitude of this award continues to sink in and I am grateful that my relationship with this special young woman has led to such an honor,” said Ivanson. “All I’ve tried to do was be the best Big Sister to Jordain by encouraging her to push beyond her comfort zone, experience new things and become more confident. I couldn’t do it without her willingness and friendship. I’m especially excited that she got to go to Denver and be recognized right alongside me on such a large scale for her achievements. She did such an awesome job speaking to such a large crowd. I was so proud of her! This was hopefully a big confidence boost for her and showed her that she’s a special girl who is smart and can do anything that she puts her mind to."

Ivanson also noted the benefits this will have on the local community. “Putting Fort Wayne, Northeast Indiana and Southern Michigan in the spotlight for this type of award will hopefully further educate the community on the need for mentoring here,” mentioned the news anchor. “It shows that anyone can make a difference in someone’s life. Children are struggling everywhere, and every little bit can lead to big change.”

“We nominated Alyssa for this award because of her passion and sincerity toward our mission, and more importantly her Little Jordain,” says Big Brothers Big Sisters Chief Executive Officer Josette Rider. “She always takes into consideration Jordain’s best interest when choosing activities and utilizes her visibility in the community to expose her to things that have a direct impact on overcoming her personal challenges.  Alyssa is a champion, a fantastic mentor and worthy of this award in every way.”

In addition to Alyssa’s award, the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana agency was also recognized as the mid-sized “Agency of the Year” and mid-sized “Board of the Year” by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. All three of these national awards will be celebrated during a press conference in mid-August 2013 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, holds itself accountable for children in its program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as educational success; avoidance of risky behaviors; and higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships. Partnering with parents/guardians, schools, corporations and others in the community, Big Brothers Big Sisters carefully pairs children (“Littles”) with screened volunteer mentors (“Bigs”) and monitors and supports these one-to-one mentoring matches throughout their course. The first-ever Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Summary substantiates that its mentoring programs have proven, positive academic, socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes for youth, areas linked to high school graduation, avoidance of juvenile delinquency and college or job readiness.

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides children facing adversity, often those of single or low-income households or families where a parent is incarcerated or serving in the military, with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.  This mission has been the cornerstone of the organization’s 100-year history. With about 350 agencies across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves nearly 630,000 children, volunteers and families. The organization is engaged in a nationwide search to reunite with alumni mentors, mentees, donors, and family, staff and board members.  Learn more at