Big Brother of the Year 2021 – Christian Detzel!
BURLINGTON, Mass. – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts (BBBSEM) has named Christian Detzel, 53, of Burlington, the agency’s 2021 Big Brother of the Year. He is one of over 3000 volunteers, referred to as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, for the nonprofit who are committed to developing caring and life-altering one-to-one mentoring relationships with children.
The passing of his mother soon after the birth of his first child inspired Detzel to give back to children who may not have the support of the incredible parents he had throughout his life. He joined BBBSEM, the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in New England, in February 2008 and was matched with his Little Brother Austin Cormier, then 7-years-old, of Waltham.
Cormier, as described by Detzel, was shy at first and in need of a male role model. His mother, Jeanette, enrolled her son in the program to help broaden his horizon’s and self-regulate his emotions as the sometimes non-verbal youth learned to express himself and manage his attention deficit disorder. The duo started with basic activities, such as eating meals together during which they’d practice table etiquette before getting more adventurous, going hiking, biking and swimming and exploring local museums.
“At first I didn’t know if I could trust someone new,” says Cormier of his mentor “Through this experience, I’ve learned that trusting someone is key. It took us nearly two years to get to know each other. As soon as that trust was built, I knew he was a good person. Our friendship has developed ever since.”
A constant support, Detzel helped Cormier to navigate tough transitions into a residential program as a teen, getting into and starting college at UMASS Dartmouth and moving back home to take virtual classes during the pandemic. Thirteen years later, Detzel continues to serve as a mentor for Cormier, now 21, as they maintain their relationship Facetiming, cooking together virtually and more.
“Throughout life’s many ups and downs, Austin has taught me to appreciate the little things, to think positively and to always care for others,” says Detzel, who like many Bigs reports getting as much or more from their mentoring experience as the children with whom they serve. “I am proud to have him as a Little. It has given me lots of joy and happiness to see him grow and thrive over the years.”
BBBSEM works to inspire, engage and transform local communities by helping youth achieve their full potential through professionally supported long-term one-to-one matches. The nonprofit coaches Bigs, Littles, and guardians to support the development of the 6 C’s– Curiosity, Character, Connection, Caring, Competency and Confidence. Progress is measured throughout the match and targeted support is provided to solidify growth.
“Austin is always learning something from Christian,” says Jeanette, who credits the program with helping her son to become more verbal. “If he needs homework help, he will reach out to Christian. Last night, we all cooked Chinese food together (virtually) and it was so good! Austin is learning new skills and is always excited to connect with his Big Brother.”
With research and proven outcomes at its core, BBBSEM creates matches based on shared interests, geography and personality and serves as a consistent resource for Bigs, Littles and their families. The organization welcomes Bigs and Littles of all races, ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and physical abilities and serves as a bridge between communities and community partners, helping to address larger social issues, such as race and education gaps.
“Christian and Austin’s 13-year friendship is a testament to the incredible work of our volunteers and staff members who keep kids learning, engaged and having fun,” says Mark O’Donnell, President & CEO of BBBSEM. “While every match has their own unique challenges, Austin and Christian are the definition of a match navigating change while maintaining their connection. Christian remains Austin’s champion, while also helping our agency to grow our volunteer base through his employer. He truly supports and lives our mission. “
Currently, community-based matches are meeting in-person and socially distant only when the Big, Little, and guardian are all comfortable, following state and CDC guidelines. All site-based and campus-based mentoring programs remain online. Since March 2020, more than 600 new matches have been made virtually.
In its 70th year, BBBSEM has created and served more than 20,000 matches. The nonprofit is now enrolling and matching Littles and Bigs. For more information, to register your children or to become a volunteer, visit: www.emassbigs.org.
About Big Brother Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts is an innovative, energetic organization that is making a real difference in the lives of nearly 4,000 youth annually by providing them with an invested, caring adult mentor in long-term, professionally supported relationships. With research and proven outcomes at its core, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts is working to defend the potential of children facing adversity and ensure every child has the support from caring adults that they need for healthy development and success in life. The organization’s vision is to inspire, engage and transform communities in Eastern Massachusetts by helping youth achieve their full potential, contributing to healthier families, better schools, more confident futures and stronger communities. Throughout its 70 years, the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in New England has created and served more than 20,000 matches.