Shiloh admits that when she was 10 years old she didn’t get along very well with other kids at school. “I needed someone to talk to,” she says.
Her mom heard about the mentoring programs at Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) and Shiloh agreed to try it out. “It’s risky because you’re putting yourself out there. But it turned out to be worth it.”
Shiloh was matched to Danielle, a caring volunteer with a myriad of hobbies and interests and experiences – photography to farming to snowboarding.
Danielle remembers watching Big Brothers Big Sisters advertisements on TV when she was younger and when she moved to the Edmonton from her rural hometown, she considered volunteering.
“The hard part was finding a whole year to commit,” Danielle explains. While she was in university, Danielle would always go home for the summer. One year she just decided she was going to stay in the city and test it out. Soon after, it was time for her to become a Big Sister.
Now, Danielle and Shiloh have been matched for nearly three years. Their laid back and relaxed interactions make it seem like they’ve known each other far longer. Almost every conversation includes a sprinkle of laughter and it’s easy to tell they’re close friends.
“We’re almost into all the same things, but we are also the exact opposite in some ways,” Shiloh says. It’s hard to explain, but it’s part of what makes them get along so well. Shiloh is an avid competitive dancer and loves doing hair and makeup and anything artsy.
One of the main things they have in common is a love of music, food, fantasy novels, and a desire to learn to bake. One of their fondest memories comes from what some might call a failed attempt at cookies.
“We were making cookies, but I didn’t know how to properly pour the baking soda,” Shiloh explains. “Apparently, it clumps at one end, and I was holding it directly over the cookies.”
“I tried to yell out to stop her,” Danielle laughs. “But it was too late. All of the baking soda spilled into the cookies.”
Experiencing a mixture of laughter and shock they continued baking anyway, and the final product tasted suspiciously like baking soda.
“It’s not about what we’re doing,” Danielle says. “It’s about being together. One time we just hung out at Hawrelak park and listened to music in my car.”
Danielle’s car also happens to be the place Shiloh feels most comfortable opening up. Last year, Shiloh lost her mom and she really appreciated having someone in her life who would just listen.
“Having Danielle around was really helpful during that time,” Shiloh explains. “It got me out of the house and got my mind off things.” That feeling is mutual; Shiloh is great at keeping Danielle distracted when she’s feeling stressed.
And they sure do keep each other busy. They go out to eat, make food at Danielle’s place, watch Shadow Hunters, catch up on books they’re reading, bake, go to Rapid Fire Theatre and Shakespeare in the Park, paint, listen to music, walk the Legislature grounds in the summer, go to festivals and so much more.
“One of my favourite things about Shiloh is her ability to just be her no matter who is around. It’s embarrassing sometimes,” Danielle laughs. “I also love how open she is and how she can move past difficult circumstances.”
“Danielle is just a great person. She’s easy to talk too and gives good feedback, even though sometimes it’s sarcastic. That’s just our relationship.” Shiloh says before turning to talk directly to Danielle. “I guess it’s the little things about you that mean the most.”
That’s one of the reasons we say that anyone can be a good mentor to a child. Shiloh doesn’t only appreciate Danielle for one big amazing thing she’s done, but also for all the small ways their friendship formed and is continuously expressed.
“I know a lot of people feel like they wouldn’t fit into the role of a Big,” Danielle says. “But in the end we each have so many experiences and so much knowledge and we can pass that on. I’m not a perfect person, but I can be there for her during the things she’s going through as a teenager.”
Shiloh agrees that anyone can be a mentor and that all kids should have one. “I know a lot of people who don’t go out that often. They’re anti-social and their only outlet is social media. Everyone just wants to impress other people. I think lots of kids need someone who they can be themselves around, like I can with Danielle.”
Their favourite part of their relationship is how easy going it is. They both agree that they can talk about anything that’s on their minds and even if it doesn’t come out the right way – the other one just gets it. They have the ability to share laughs during weird or awkward or difficult conversations and they do their best to keep in touch between matches, sending each other funny pictures or songs if it reminds them of each other.
Danielle has one word of advice for people thinking about volunteering: commitment. “Make sure that you’re 100 percent in; so many kids just have people coming into and out of their lives all the time – you can be that constant.”
To Danielle, volunteering with BGCBigs is different than most of her other volunteer experiences because she’s doesn’t feel like she’s tied to our organization; she’s committed to a relationship to a single person. It’s that relationship aspect that has kept her as a volunteer for the last three years and she imagines she will stay in Shiloh’s life for many more.
“I know that I can rely on her,” Shiloh says. “It took me a year to open up to her because I didn’t want her to think I was weird, but that’s the opposite of what she’s there for.”
“Being a mentor is about investing your time in kids today so they they can invest in the future kids,” Danielle shares. “Ultimately, we’re on this earth to help each other; why wouldn’t we want to share our time and knowledge?”
To learn more about becoming a Big Brother or Sister like Danielle, click here. If you’re a student who leaves for the summer but you want to volunteer, check out our Bigs in Schools program that takes place during the school year.