Despite having great parents, Brendan Heaney was a “less than perfect kid, whose principal “probably knew my name and face better than my teachers,” he said.
That’s why he wanted to be a Big Brother – to help a boy make better decisions than he did. He and Little Brother Aydien have been matched for going on three years.
When they first met, Aydien was an introverted kid who just wanted to stay home and play video games. Having lost his father early in life, he had problems at school and at home. And he didn’t talk much, at least to Brendan.
“During our first handful of visits, he probably said a total of ten complete sentences to me.”
Instead of dissuading his new Little from playing video games, Brendan plopped down on the couch and played too. He took Aydien to arcades. And movies. And restaurants. They started going to amusement parks, hopped into go-karts, challenged themselves on ropes courses. They went hiking, ziplining, and whitewater rafting. They scoured flea markets. Aydien even suggested they start working out together – before 5 a.m. – several times a week.
Brendan thrills to the pride Aydien takes in this pre-dawn sacrifice. And it makes it easier for Brendan to join in. “His joy is contagious,” he said.
Aydien now has fewer problems at school, and he’s communicating with his mother better. “That means the world to me,” Brendan said. In January, he saw Aydien give a TED talk in front of a packed house, without a trace of fear. Brendan would have terrified at that age, he said.
“I have found more fulfillment in watching him grow from an introverted child to a young man who is not afraid to face his fears than I ever would have thought possible previously.” Aydien’s courage “motivates me to be better and push myself harder in the gym, as well as in other areas of my life.”
Being a Big is humbling – and rewarding, Brendan added.
“I’ve found myself in a state of perpetual learning, consistently surprised by the depth of insight Aydien brings. I’ve discovered my own inadequacies in patience, knowledge, and understanding, which are essential qualities for a mentor. Genuine patience is more than a virtue; it is a profound reservoir of strength. Actively listening, allowing Aydien to navigate the flaws and solutions of his ideas independently is something I wish I had growing up.”
People don’t remember you for your mistakes, but by how you handle them, Brendan tells his Little Brother. Growth, not perfection, is the goal. Their growing together – both as a match and as men – “that has unlocked potential I don’t think we knew existed before,” Brendan said. “I am excited to see how much more we can push each other to grow.”
At this point in their lives, Aydien’s potential “is too great to be measured,” his Big Brother said.