Pat Ferrell, a Big Brother with Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters, has been named the 2013 National Big Brother of the Year by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
The award honors long-term mentors whose volunteer service exemplifies how Big Brothers Big Sisters improves the odds for thousands of vulnerable children across the country. Ferrell will receive the award at the national Big Brothers Big Sisters conference in June in Denver, Colorado.
Earlier this year, Ferrell was also named the Illinois Big Brother of the Year. Ferrell serves as the president of the board of the Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. He works for RLI, Inc.
When Pat was matched with his “Little Brother” Jamir just over 4 years ago, he was quiet, introverted, and struggling in school. During the first year of their match, Jamir was dealing with some difficult family issues. His grades were slipping and he wasn’t himself.
“I could sense a lack of self-confidence. He regularly skipped school and failed to turn in homework, resulting in Cs and Ds on his report card. I made a deal with him that if he turned in all of his homework and had no unexcused absences for three straight weeks, I would bring him lunch from his favorite restaurant,” Ferrell said.
“He made all As and Bs on his next report card. He has continued to keep his GPA above 3.0. He just needed someone to show interest and hold him accountable.”
Once Jamir’s grades began to improve, so did his self-esteem. Jamir and Pat had the opportunity to speak in front of a group of people at the agency’s 2010 annual reception. Jamir was very scared, but did a great job for his first time in front of a crowd. He enjoyed the positive attention he received so much that he asked if Pat could find other opportunities for him to speak on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Jamir began to realize that people were interested in their match not because of his obstacles, but because of his successes and his ability to work through problems with Pat’s help. Since their first public speaking engagement, they have appeared in numerous radio spots, morning interview shows, and a video about the agency. Jamir is now as comfortable in the spotlight as Pat.
“I have witnessed firsthand the impact that can be made in the lives of our children,” Ferrell said. “I believe in this organization. In addition to becoming a Big Brother four years ago, I also now serve as president of our local Big Brothers Big Sisters’ board. It has been a very rewarding experience.”