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Big Brother of the Year 2009

12-31-2009

PEORIA

Katy Best somehow went through her teenage years without many baby-sitting jobs or other exposure to children.

She's not sure what moved her to sign up to mentor a child through the Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

"I put so little thought into doing it, it's almost embarrassing," Best said. "But I cannot believe how much I get out of it."

Cheyenne, the 10-year-old girl she's been a "big" to for the past two years must be getting something out of it as well. The girl and her mom nominated Best for the organization's Big Sister of the Year Award this year.

Also honored this year with the Big Brother of the Year Award was Steve Driscoll of East Peoria, the big to a 13-year-old East Peoria boy named Isaac.

Driscoll is vice president and co-owner of Menold Construction. He realized that over the years, he's had many people mentoring him. He wanted to give that to a child.

"The local youth are our future," he said. "It's almost amazing in my business world, how people makes investments, but nobody invests in our future."

He said who benefits the most from the relationship - him or Isaac - changes from week to week. But in the end, it's probably a 50-50 partnership.

He gets the joy of seeing Isaac grow and make good choices, and he enjoys having someone look up to him and confide in him.

And from a practical standpoint, Isaac is pretty helpful. He programmed Driscoll's Blackberry and taught him to text message.

Best, too, learns from Cheyenne.

"She automatically teaches me so much because it's my first consistent relationship with a child," she said.

Both bigs have a lot of respect for the moms of their littles, who are raising their children as single parents and still are willing to give up time with their kids so the kids can have another close relationship.

"She's just a great kid," Best said. "I think her mom is really present in her life and really works hard to be a great mom."

Kerry Hickman of Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters said the bigs of the year are selected based on nominations from the "littles" and their parents.

Adults age 18 and older are eligible to be paired with children through the program.

"The best big is somebody that's dedicated and has the children's best interest at heart," Hickman said. "It requires a lot of follow-through, to not set something up and then back out."

She said Best and Driscoll are exceptionally dedicated.

"A lot of times, the bigs of the year go above and beyond," Hickman said. "They do more than they have to because they want to, not because they have to."

 

By JENNIFER TOWERY
of the Journal Star
 

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