In 2005, Matt Linski was fresh out of college and still relatively new to the Kansas City area. One morning, he heard an ad on Mix 93.3 about what it was like to be a Big.
“I had 18 incredible years that I got to spend with my father,” said Matt. “I was lucky to have the time I did with my dad — that radio ad made me realize how many kids out there might never have gotten the chance to connect with their dad like I did.”
Around the same time, 11 year-old Austin Woods had just gone through the end of his second match with a Big Brother. Austin still wanted to find a Big he could really connect with, and his mom was eager to find him a mentor.
Not long after he heard the Mix 93.3 ad, Matt signed up to be a Big, and he and Austin were matched later that August.
Building a friendship and a future
Matt and Austin hit it off, and they taught each other a lot. Early on, they played lots of video games together and went to the park often. From skateboarding to Pokemon, Matt was there to listen to Austin and encourage him in his hobbies and interests.
“For a lot of my life, I’ve been pretty quiet and reserved,” said Austin. “But Matt created an environment where I felt comfortable and could come out of my shell a little bit.”
As Austin grew up, it became obvious to Matt that he was destined to do big things.
“By the time he was 16, it was clear to me that he was going to be devoted to whatever career path he chose,” said Matt. “You just knew he was going to be successful because he was willing to try and be taught just about everything.”
In high school, Austin participated in a program similar to JROTC. He knew that he wanted to join the Navy and go into medicine. He enlisted soon after graduation and went to boot camp.
While in the Navy, Austin gained experience doing EMT and medicine-related work. While on active duty, he began dating Ashlynn, who is now his wife! He was stationed in California for a while, and eventually got an offer to move to Hawaii.
Once Austin moved to Hawaii, he and Matt weren’t able to stay in touch as often. During that time, Matt became a market executive and Kansas City Market President for Bank of America. He also became the youngest member to ever join the BBBSKC Board of Directors.
Looking back, Matt attributes a lot of his personal success to his experience with BBBSKC.
“Serving on the board with BBBSKC gave me the opportunity to learn how to be confident and assertive as a leader,” said Matt. “Through it all, my friendship and occasional contact with Austin helped me stay grounded.”
When he returned to Kansas City, Austin started going to the gym to keep up his physical fitness. On one of his first days at the gym, he ran into someone who looked pretty familiar (with maybe a little more gray in his hair).
“I had been going to the same gym for several years,” said Matt. “It was always the same people there. That’s why he stood out immediately. I was thinking, ‘Is that really him…?’” Sure enough, it was Austin.
Once they reconnected, Matt and Austin were able to pick up right where they left off. To this day, they still see each other and work out together on a regular basis. Austin, now 25, is preparing to attend KU in the fall, and Matt continues to serve as a market executive and Kansas City Market President for Bank of America.
For Austin, his experience with BBBSKC has taught him about the value of giving your time to others.
“The time that he dedicated was always important to me — I noticed it,” said Austin. “One way or another, kids will find a mentor — when someone steps into the role of being a Big, they help ensure that it’s a positive mentor, like Matt did for me.”
For Matt, it’s been a lesson in making time for what truly matters.
“Everyone is busy. But we choose to make time for the things we decide are important to us,” said Matt. “And that’s the most important part — making the time. There’s always excuses for why right now isn’t a good time, but if you take the leap, it’s something you’ll never regret.”