Jeff Chorlton is not your every day Big Brother. Though he had heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters in the past, it wasn’t until a chance meeting at a networking event years ago that his life would change forever.
The contact he had met initially opened the door for Jeff to join BBBSC in a financial leadership role – before eventually paving the way for an invitation onto the board. But it was during his 7-year tenure as a board member that Jeff began to witness the strength of connection between Bigs and Littles in Canada.
For Jeff, his entry point into the organization’s Audit & Finance Committee made sense given his professional background – yet his involvement with BBBS as a whole also began to reflect back the true impact a mentor can have on the life of a young person.
As he began to attend more Big Brothers Big Sisters events, Jeff met people in their 70s and 50s who had stayed in touch long after being matched as Bigs and Littles decades earlier. Those long-lasting relationships eventually inspired Jeff to take a more active role in the organization – but he had some considerations of his own.
Jeff was raising his two young boys at home when he first joined BBBS and was very invested in ensuring that their development was successful. Though he was pressed for time, his rapidly developing interest in helping to shape the lives of Toronto’s youth – coupled with a knowledge of how easy it would be to make a difference – solidified in Jeff a strong desire to get involved as a mentor once his own sons had effectively grown and matured.
“The week my youngest son moved away to university was the week I finally threw my name in the hat to be a volunteer,” says Jeff.
After that, it wasn’t long before Jeff was matched with Hayden. They first met at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in Toronto, where Jeff walked into the waiting room and saw a woman and a boy with exceptionally long hair. Though Hayden was quiet at first, the two were able to form an immediate connection.
“His mom was looking for a strong role model for her son, and the rest is history,” says Jeff. The two have now been on more than 220 outings, while Hayden has grown from 8 to 14.
“Hayden has developed confidence, maturity, and a passion for technology. He’s an unbelievably great kid and has matured into a strong young man.”
Along the way, Hayden and Jeff have shared a range of different experiences. Their first outing was a Cirque Du Soleil show, and while they recently took in their second performance, Jeff suggests that hands-on activities are better for building meaningful relationships.
“The best activities allow Bigs and Littles to participate. They can have fun and maybe learn something interesting as well,” explains Jeff.
To that end, Jeff and Hayden have taken part in many different cultural activities, with trips to synagogues, Hindu ceremonies, and Taste of the Danforth, in addition to the many visits to the Science Centre and hobbyist events like reptile shows and model train exhibits. The highlight, however, may have been the in-house drum circle event organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I really felt a strong connection with Hayden,” says Jeff.. “We had a blast banging on the bongos, creating music, and connecting with the rhythm and energy of the experience.”
In the time since, Jeff and Hayden have grown even closer. His simple hope continues to be that more people will step up and choose to be positive role models for young people in Canada.
“You’re contributing to the growth of a young man, watching him develop intellectually and emotionally and gaining the confidence to pick a direction for his career,” says Jeff. “It’s about having someone to talk to and lean on in times of need.”
Jeff’s journey with Big Brothers Big Sisters began with finance before evolving into a more powerful mentorship dynamic. Regardless of how a volunteer first comes on board, what unites us all is a genuine desire to see the potential of young people ignited. For this, we are forever grateful.