Big bash rewards caring people
Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentoring awards highlight important legacies
By Tomi Morris Johnson   tomij@wingcomltd.com
Digital images & web design by Kurk D. Johnson

©2003 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.

Legacy Awards main stage at the Ritz Carlton Hotel

September 6, 2003, Atlanta, GA… When adults intentionally give of themselves to help guide children, there are big rewards gained that surpass smiles and trophies. If you are a mentor, your name slips off lips of protégées you have helped become successful. In another scenario, you are able to enjoy the best time of the year at a black tie, fundraising gala with corporate community affairs professionals and kids. Sharing is fun on Big Brother/Little Brother – Big Sister/Little Sister teams. This is the message behind the mission of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.


Some children in Big Brothers/Big Sisters have lost parents through death, divorce, or incarceration. “Grief, failure, brokenness, numbness, uncertainty, fear, the death of feeling, the death of dreaming…” is writer Arundhati Roy’s definition of loss. Psychological and economic detriment to whole communities occurs when children are not cared for or loved after losses.  That is why BB/BS is so important.

2003 Legacy Award Winner Rebecca Paul, whose husband, mother and father all died within one year, knows how it feels to deal with loss. Paul, President and CEO of the Georgia Lottery Commission, is leaving the state soon to manage Tennessee’s new lottery organization. Her acceptance speech was  emotional.


“My late husband was involved in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization for twenty years,” Ms. Paul said. “Each one of us, if we take the time to reach out to a child, can make a difference in a life. Because of my job, I have the chance to change the lives of a million children, because of the Hope Scholarship Program and the Pre-Kindergarten Program, but that is my job. In my heart, I have to reach out to a single child to make a difference as a volunteer.”

Rebecca Paul made an emotional acceptance speech.

Dr. Louis Sullivan, president emeritus of Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and the former surgeon general of the United States, left the event with his trophy in a shopping bag and a smile of contentment on his face.  “This organization has a tremendous impact in helping our nation prepare young people for positions of leadership and responsibility. In that sense, mentors are helping build a stronger America and a better future. That is something for which we are forever in their debt.”

“My chief mentor was Dr. Benjamin Mays,” said Dr. Sullivan in his acceptance speech. “In spite of the dark years of my youth, I’m very optimistic of our future. We are our brother’s keeper.”

Dr. Sullivan with BB/BS protégé Brian.

Morehouse School of Medicine VP of Pubic Affair Alice Wiggins and WingcomLtd’s Tomi Johnson pose with Dr. Sullivan.

“In terms of mentoring, I’m now learning a lot from our faculty and students at Morehouse School of Medicine. I am a better person everyday because of my interaction with them; so mentoring can go both ways. The most important gift that any of us can give is our time and ourselves. What the mentors are doing in this organization really is the most precious gift that one can give to another generation,” Sullivan said.

The mentoring process is paramount for youth who do not have grandparents or parents. “Mentoring is very important. That is why we have Big Brother and Big Sisters,” said award winner Rene Diaz, CEO of Diaz Foods which services customers in 23 states and has projected 2003 sales of $75 million.

“In my family, we all stayed together: grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunts,” Diaz said. “When you don’t have that, because of people moving and so forth, you have to find role models, perhaps in a neighbor, a teacher, a friend, or a person involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, someone who can offer you a different perspective.  Sometimes, you end up getting more than you give,” Diaz explained about the rewards of mentoring.

Diaz, whose family is from Cuba, explained his mentors were his parents, grandparents and son. “My father taught me everything about business.  My mother, Inez, taught me to give back to my community,” Diaz said. “I hope when I grow up, I can be like you,” he quipped to son Alex.

Al Taylor, an employee of BellSouth Corporation, was a Big Brother for three and one half years, and he learned what a valuable experience it is to “give back” and become a part of a young man’s life.  Taylor is originally from Hattiesburg, MS. His own father died when he was a teenager, leaving his mother to raise seven children alone. Working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters was a joy for him, perhaps because he understands what it means to be an adolescent without a father.

"It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, “Taylor said about the organization, “being able to influence a young man in his growing years.  The young man was from New York and was experiencing a new environment, and I helped him adjust to a southern lifestyle. He was from a single parent home, and I offered him a relationship with the first male figure he had in his life,” said Taylor who has children of his own.

Al Taylor knows what it is like to be on the receiving and giving end of mentoring. “It’s important to give back,” Taylor said.

...Continued on next page


©2003 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.