As a single mom of 4 kids, Elaina felt overwhelmed. She knew she wanted to expose her kids to a different way of life, instead of keeping them at home while she worked. After hearing about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, she decided to make the call to the agency. Of course, she had concerns. Would BBBS find good mentors for her children? Would they stick around? She took the leap of faith and made the call.
Elaina’s oldest daughter, Johnique, was entering middle school at the time and was the first of Elaina’s kids to be matched to her Big Sister, Crystal Ward.
“Crystal came into my life at the perfect time,” Johnique said. “I was so lost, I hated life, and myself. I would do things I knew I shouldn’t and add ten times more stress on my mother. I hadn’t been exposed to very much in my life at that time, due to the fact that my mom is a single mother with four kids who had no time to think about herself.”
Elaina knew that she wanted Johnique’s Big Sister to expose her to new things, but also wanted someone who possessed the strength to help Johnique boost her self-esteem.
“I didn’t know who my Big would be, I didn’t know if it would last, but my mother needed this and I didn’t know it at the time, but I did too,” said Johnique. “I’ve been exposed to so many amazing opportunities, different events, and people because of Crystal. Not only did she give me love, and support, but her along with my mother, gave me the tools I needed to love myself again and for that, I will always be grateful.”
Crystal possessed all of the positive qualities Elaina had hoped for in a Big for her daughter. Crystal helped Johnique become more confidant, taught Johnique that she could trust people, and taught her that failure was not an option.
“I can’t express how many things Crystal has done for my daughter and the rest of my family,” Elaina said. “The love that she shows Johnique, Emil, Ne’jhan, and A’merion is more than appreciated. I am truly honored to have her as Johnique’s Big. However, she is more than a Big to my daughter. She is family.”
Soon Elaina’s second daughter, Ne’jhan, was matched to her Big Mollie.
“Ne’jhan is a quiet kid, but she and Mollie talk about everything,” said Elaina. “She has learned to open up a little bit more, which is something I couldn’t get Ne’jhan to do. Mollie has helped Ne’Jhan learn that life isn’t about social media, it’s about getting out there and having fun.”
In 2013, Elaina’s youngest son, A’merion, was finally old enough to join the program and was eager to start, after seeing his older siblings enjoying time with their Bigs. A’merion was matched to his Big Couple Kate and Dale Ley shortly after.
“Kate and Dale are determined to not only commit their energy and time to not only my son but to my family in its entirety,” Elaina said. “Kate and Dale have been exceptionally patient with us and they have been there for us, through our ups & downs.”
After A’merion was matched there was a period when Elaina and her children were displaced from one another, but Kate and Dale provided support and offered a place for A’merion to go to have fun and just be a kid.
“No matter how far they were, or who they were with, Kate & Dale still found time to come get A’merion, and sometimes my other children to just spend time with them, Elaina said. “There were times when I was an emotional wreck because of the challenges that my children and I encountered, and they never judged me. They only showed love and compassion. Their presence was so enlightening that every time I saw them, I wanted to smile through my pain.”
After A’merion was matched, Kate and Dale had two daughters. A’merion, the youngest in his family, is now in the Big Brother role for Kate and Dale’s daughters.
“He likes to call himself their uncle,” said Elaina.
Elaina has seen each of her kids grow with help from the program and is extremely grateful for the support she has received. Just by making a simple call and taking a leap of faith she was able to change her families lives forever.
“As a mom, the program has helped me tremendously,” said Elaina. “It’s not just me telling them when they do a good job and it’s not just me they have to listen to when they are in trouble. They have other people to talk to about these things. The kids have always had a problem with me bringing strangers into their lives, but with their Bigs, they know they can trust other people and that these people are here to stay. BBBSKC gave me and my kid a bigger family and a support system and I am so appreciative of that.”