The following is written by Lydia and Savahna’s Program Coordinator, Rebeca Bennett:
This year will mark four years since Big Sister Lydia Reynolds was matched with her Little Sister, Savahna. Their match has been a source of stability, joy and inspiration for her Little Sister, seeing her through much of elementary school and other passages and challenges in her life.
I first met Lydia and her Little Sister at a BBBST Holiday Party, which they attend every year. Their connection immediately struck me as something as genuine and vital as family. Both Big and Little Sister enthusiastically talked me through three photo albums full of memories made together that they had brought to share with me. There were photos of Lydia baking birthday cakes and making holiday cookies and tamales together with her Little Sister, others of Savahna dressed up for Halloween or playing with Lydia’s dog at one of the many sleepovers she has had at her Big Sister’s house on Friday nights, or smiling broadly on the roller skates or bicycle her Big Sister taught her how to use.
When we met, I was struck by how confident, friendly and talkative Lydia’s Little Sister was with me, having only talked to me previously on the phone. However, their earliest photos–when Savahna was seven–showed a Little Sister who had been too timid to even sit up straight or show her teeth when she smiled. But by now, Savahna’s relationship with her Big Sister has provided self-esteem and social skills beyond those of most 11-year-olds.
It struck me how they had built traditions together—things like annual hay rides through Winter Haven’s holiday lights. Lydia emphasized the importance of traditions.
Lydia’s adult daughter had originally been Savahna’s Big Sister. When she married and moved away, Lydia wanted to become Savahna’s Big Sister, knowing how many challenges she had already faced in her young life. But Lydia always makes sure that Savahna knows this: “Spending time with such a precious, kind-hearted little girl who is an old soul, wise beyond her years, also helped me to cope with having my daughter marry and move away from me. Savahna has been a blessing in my life, too!”
Lydia shares, “My goal has been to strike that perfect balance between giving my Little Sister fun experiences and also helping her overcome the obstacles in her life.” Lydia has done just that, beautifully. Savahna’s mother told me, “We really appreciated how she came to visit Savahna’s grandma in Hospice last year, and then she helped her process the loss of this really important person in her life.”
Lydia has also helped to see Savahna through other difficult situations. She has been there while her Savahna’s older brother went away to boarding school in another state, and celebrated his hard-won graduation. She’s helped her Little Sister overcome the setback of repeating 2nd grade and tutored her in Math and Writing to bring her skills up. But she has mostly been a close friend, a believer and a constant in Savahna’s life.
Lydia has gone beyond the impact she has had on her Little Sister’s life and connected with younger, less-experienced Bigs at BBBST match outings, offering carpooling, encouragement, ideas, and inspiration. Lydia is a model mentor, promoting the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters in our community by embodying what it means to be a mentor and sharing her Little Sister’s many milestones with others.