He's a part of our family, and we wanted to take our picture along with him

Ella Martin is no stranger to Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region. She signed her son and two granddaughters up for the program in 2006, and they all had great experiences with their Bigs. A few years later, she signed up her nephew, Jafon, and his may be the most successful match yet.

“Jafon’s family is scattered, and I hoped he could excel, open up and learn more from a Big Brother,” Ella told us. “From the first time they met, [Big Brother] Wesley fit right in.”

The Big and Little share a lot of the same characteristics and enjoy doing the same things. Wesley is an artist, and Jafon is very interested in performing arts. “[Before I met Wesley] I didn’t have anything to do, and I needed somebody to spend time with do things with to get me out of the house,” 16-year-old Jafon told us. “Wesley and I always do fun stuff when we’re together. We’ll draw, talk about school, or he’ll teach me how to cook something. We’ve made pizza, lasagna, stuffed peppers, quiche and fish tacos.”

Wesley has not only grown close to Jafon over the years, but also with Jafon’s family. When they started talking about getting a family portrait taken, inviting Wesley to take part was an easy decision. “Wesley’s always including us in things, and we like to include him, too,” Ella said. “He’s a part of our family, and we wanted to take our picture along with him.”

Everyone agrees that Jafon has been positively impacted by his mentoring relationship, and has changed over the past two and a half years that he’s been matched with Wesley. “Jafon is now more confident, more alert and more focused,” Ella reported. “He has come out of his shell, and Wesley has brought out Jafon’s leadership qualities.” Jafon agreed, saying, “He helps me with homework, and if I’m not feeling too good, he helps me and talks to me.”

In the future, Jafon plans to attend college and study health or art. With the help and guidance of his Big Brother and the support of his caring family, we know he’ll go far.

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