B-a big brother


Life is busy, but making time for my Little Brother Walter was one of the best decisions I ever made.

by Willie Henderson
Growing up in New Orleans, my mother was a single parent. While she was working, I remember participating in an after-school program that, once a week, sent a green van to my school to pick me up. We’d head over to Tulane University to play football and other games. I also remember how it felt when, one afternoon, that green van stopped coming.  I never knew why—I imagine lack of funding— but the feeling of disappointment stays with me today. That afternoon was the highlight of my week and all of a sudden it was gone.
As I grew into a teenager, I started making some mistakes that could have led me down the wrong path in life. Luckily, I managed to stay out of any serious trouble and went on to start a career and a family. I vowed that one day I’d do something to help children not make those same mistakes I made—kids like me who didn’t have a male role model to look up to and help them make smart decisions.
Fast forward to April of 2008. I had just started working for Arby’s as a general manager and our company had a national partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Through its “Helping Hands” program, we collected money for BBBS in each of our store locations. During that campaign, a woman came into my store with a handful of change and dumped it in the collection bin. She said it was all she had to give, but that her son had been on the waiting list for a Big Brother for some time. He’d begun getting into trouble in school and she hoped her contribution might make a difference and inspire others to give.
Her faith rekindled the flame inside me that wanted to help other kids like me. I thought about that woman’s little boy and knew exactly how he must have been feeling, how he must be losing hope and feeling like no one cares or understands.
At this point, my life was pretty hectic. Married with four young children at home, I knew taking on another responsibility would require sacrifices from all members of my family. I talked to my wife and together we decided that there was never going to be a “perfect” time to become a Big Brother. Kids needed help now.
I never met that particular child, the one whose mother inspired me to take action.  However, I did meet my Little Brother Walter a few months later, when we were officially “matched” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham. Like me, he comes from a single-parent family so we can relate on many different levels. Walter knows he can talk to me about anything—girls, peer pressure, even what it feels like to not have his father involved in his life.
Walter and I spend a few hours together a couple of times a month, going to the movies, playing sports, going to games, or just talking. Our time together is special and it is valuable. We just celebrated our two-year match anniversary in October, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever. He’s part of my family. He even came to Disney World with us this past summer!
There are so many children in Birmingham just like Walter, but not enough volunteers to go around. January is National Mentoring Month, and I’m encouraging you to be a mentor. You can make a huge difference. Just by being there, you can help keep Birmingham’s kids on the right path to a successful future.
Life is busy, but I can assure you that making time for Walter was one of the best decisions I ever made. Call 205.939.5590 today to become a Big Brother or Big Sister or visit www.bbbsbhm.org.
Willie Henderson is the general manager of Arby’s in downtown Birmingham.  He lives in Pelham with his wife and four children and sees his Little Brother Walter several times a month.

Growing up in New Orleans, my mother was a single parent. While she was working, I remember participating in an after-school program that, once a week, sent a green van to my school to pick me up. We’d head over to Tulane University to play football and other games. I also remember how it felt when, one afternoon, that green van stopped coming.  I never knew why—I imagine lack of funding— but the feeling of disappointment stays with me today. That afternoon was the highlight of my week and all of a sudden it was gone.As I grew into a teenager, I started making some mistakes that could have led me down the wrong path in life. Luckily, I managed to stay out of any serious trouble and went on to start a career and a family. I vowed that one day I’d do something to help children not make those same mistakes I made—kids like me who didn’t have a male role model to look up to and help them make smart decisions.Fast forward to April of 2008. I had just started working for Arby’s as a general manager and our company had a national partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Through its “Helping Hands” program, we collected money for BBBS in each of our store locations. During that campaign, a woman came into my store with a handful of change and dumped it in the collection bin. She said it was all she had to give, but that her son had been on the waiting list for a Big Brother for some time. He’d begun getting into trouble in school and she hoped her contribution might make a difference and inspire others to give.Her faith rekindled the flame inside me that wanted to help other kids like me. I thought about that woman’s little boy and knew exactly how he must have been feeling, how he must be losing hope and feeling like no one cares or understands.At this point, my life was pretty hectic. Married with four young children at home, I knew taking on another responsibility would require sacrifices from all members of my family. I talked to my wife and together we decided that there was never going to be a “perfect” time to become a Big Brother. Kids needed help now.I never met that particular child, the one whose mother inspired me to take action.  However, I did meet my Little Brother Walter a few months later, when we were officially “matched” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham. Like me, he comes from a single-parent family so we can relate on many different levels. Walter knows he can talk to me about anything—girls, peer pressure, even what it feels like to not have his father involved in his life.Walter and I spend a few hours together a couple of times a month, going to the movies, playing sports, going to games, or just talking. Our time together is special and it is valuable. We just celebrated our two-year match anniversary in October, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever. He’s part of my family. He even came to Disney World with us this past summer!There are so many children in Birmingham just like Walter, but not enough volunteers to go around. January is National Mentoring Month, and I’m encouraging you to be a mentor. You can make a huge difference. Just by being there, you can help keep Birmingham’s kids on the right path to a successful future.Life is busy, but I can assure you that making time for Walter was one of the best decisions I ever made. Call 205.939.5590 today to become a Big Brother or Big Sister or visit www.bbbsbhm.org.
Willie Henderson is the general manager of Arby’s in downtown Birmingham.  He lives in Pelham with his wife and four children and sees his Little Brother Walter several times a month.

One Response to “B-a big brother”

  1. geoff says:

    we are all in it together!

    great story…great result!

    that’s why we do what we do!

    willie…way to walk the talk and to make a positive difference in the life of a child!

    all the best,

    geoff

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