Big Brothers / Big Sisters

As someone who isn’t that far from middle age, Diane Zielinski didn’t expect to attend pro wrestling matches or monster truck rallies. And what she really didn’t expect was to find that she would enjoy them. How did this happen to her? What’s going on?

About two and a half years ago, Diane did some soul-searching and realized that there was a small vacuum in her life. She had many friends and she enjoyed her job, but she missed the company of children.

She adores her nephews and Godsons, but they live far away and she doesn’t get to see enough of them. As she was thinking about this hole in her life, she happened to hear a public service announcement asking for volunteers for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Intrigued, she began asking questions about Big Brothers/Big Sisters and learned that its purpose is to provide adult mentors for youngsters in single parent homes. A youngster between the ages of 6 and 17 who participates in the program gets guidance, companionship, support and new learning experiences.

Ideally, they come to realize their potential and they get to see themselves as having happy and successful futures. They do this by spending time with their Big Brother or Big Sister, usually several hours a week.

Zielinski found that there were a couple of levels of commitment open to her. She could have signed up for the School Mentor program, visiting her “Mentee” in school for an hour a week. That would have meant helping him or her with schoolwork, playing games, or having lunch together in the cafeteria.

Zielinski, however, wanted to do more. She signed up for the full program, which was a commitment of roughly three hours a week.

In most cases, that would have meant that she would soon acquire a Little Sister. However, as Zielinski looked into things, she learned that in the

Lower Shore, there was a greater need for people to adopt brothers. Young girls get placed immediately because there are many Big Sisters available.

There aren’t as many Big Brothers volunteers, so a young boy will usually have to wait a year or longer before being placed. In response to this situation, Zielinski decided to do something a little unusual. Knowing about the long wait it usually takes to place a Little Brother, and knowing that she personally adores the rough and tumble of little boys, she asked to become a Big Sister for a boy.

And that’s how Trent McKinney entered her life. He was nine when the relationship started and he’s eleven now. For Zielinski, it’s been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling things she does.

“I really, really like spending time with him,” she says. “Also, I feel good about watching his progress in school. I don’t tutor him, but on our way to doing something, I’ll be quizzing him about what he’s learning. If he’s learning about math, I’ll give him math problems or if it’s a spelling class, I’ll give him words to spell.”

The teaching goes both ways. She’s gotten to know and love her Little Brother and has also gotten involved in the things he likes. He’s been teaching her about wrestling, and about monster truck rallies. He explains what’s going on, and now she gets to enter his world.

“I get at least as much out of this as he does,” she says. She recommends the experience to anyone who has a genuine love of children.

If you’d like to be a Big Brother or Big Sister, contact Alicia Wisniewski at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lower Eastern Shore, 410 543 2447, or e-mail her at The Big Brothers Big Sisters Wish List: Answering Machine Folding Chairs Two Desk Lamps Computer, Windows 98 Donations of Non Perishable Foods for Snacks for Activities

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