At six-foot-five, 15-year-old Khaleel may only be referred to as a ‘Little’ by his BIG, Sean.
The two have been matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto for over six-years, and Sean has had the opportunity to watch Khaleel grow, not just vertically, but as a person.
Sean laughed, “Yes he’s grown [referring to his height], but he’s also gotten very confident. He’s one of the most caring kids I’ve ever come across. I can’t say enough about him, how he’s been raised, his mother is incredible.”
Khaleel’s mother, Tamara, has kind words to say about Sean as well, “Sean brought out a different side of him, to be more confident. Sean is very involved. If I need help…I know he’d be there immediately. Not tomorrow, today.”
Six-years ago the pair were introduced at an outdoor winter event for BBBST. It was there that they both shared with each other their love for sports, being active, and being outdoors; something that has been at the heart of their connection ever since.
“The big thing that connects us is that he [Khaleel] loves sports,” Sean said reflecting on the day. “He’s a great basketball player, an athlete. We both saw that we liked being outside and being active. The first year [they were matched] a lot of the stuff we did surrounded sports.
Sean introduced Khaleel to skiing. They skated, they shot hoops together, and those hobbies blossomed into an incredible bond.
That bond earned Sean the Rookie BIG of the year award at the BBBST gala where they were celebrated for their incredible connection, and the change in confidence that Tamara saw in Khaleel.
“He’s more confident. He’s more outspoken. He can do a presentation in front of a group now. Sean brought that out in him,” Tamara said.
While Sean realizes his role, he firmly stated that he doesn’t want to take a lot of the credit, “I think this is all him. My role just comes down to the fact that I’m trying to be a friend to him, someone he can confide in and talk to, show him different sides and life and show him things he might miss out on.”
Over the six-years that Sean and Khaleel have been matched, Sean’s role has evolved past the point of just being there for Khaleel. He’s just as close to Tamara.
“They’re people that I love. People that I care for.”
Tamara recalled Sean has always being there for her family. From helping out last minute with driving kids from one location to another during a basketball-themed birthday party to just checking in on them regularly, Sean has always been there to offer his support.
According to Tamara, both Sean and Khaleel are very similar in their caring nature, and specially towards their mothers, “they’re both exactly the same in that caring nature for their mom.”
Sean’s mom passed away recently, but prior to her passing Tamara got the chance to meet her at a BBBST gala. Sean noticed similarities between the two very quickly.
“She’s [Tamara] instilled that family is first and that family is important,” Sean said. “That’s something that my mother and father instilled in me. I see a lot of my mother in Tamara. I tell Khaleel that his mother is incredible and extraordinary and he understands that.”
Despite how close they are, Sean has had to take a physical step back due to COVID-19 restrictions. While not being able to spend physical time together he’s stayed connected through constant text messages and even stopped by for a curb-side gift drop off during the holidays.
When asked how Sean and Khaleel were staying connected Tamara laughed and said, “Fortnight. Sean is a big kid also regarding the games. They communicate a lot through games.”
With time away from each other physically Sean’s been able to reflect on his relationship with Khaleel.
“Having him in my life has made me a better person by being more giving. His innocence, his optimism has made me more optimistic in life. Khaleel is such a bright, confident, sweet kid. Everyone who comes across him in my life is instantly drawn to him because of his spirit and because of how he is. That’s something unquantifiable. Him, his mother, his whole family are just incredible people. They’ve made my life better.”