BBBSWNC congratulates its Big Sister of 2023 – Hannah Epperson!
Hannah and Little Sister Caitlyn were matched in 2019 when Caitlyn was 8. “Hannah was up for the challenge from the get-go and did her best to plan activities that got Caitlyn moving,” said Ally Sloss, their match support specialist.
They spent their first few months hiking, riding bikes, and playing board games (something they do regularly now). They began laying the foundation for a friendship that has gotten stronger and more expansive in just a few years.
Hannah has talked Caitlyn through her frustrations and taught her coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing, that she now uses at home and at school. Hannah taught her about performing acts of service. When Caitlyn lost her beloved family dog, she and Hannah donated dog food to local food pantries, not only to honor her pet’s memory but also to support other animals.
“When Caitlyn shared that she wanted to volunteer at an animal shelter, she and Hannah became regular volunteers with Brother Wolf,” an animal adoption and rescue facility, Ally said. “When Caitlyn expressed an interest in science, Hannah planned trips to the UNC Asheville Observatory and the Asheville Museum of Science.”
The match has inspired them to be creative. During the pandemic, they picked recipes and made them together, connected through video calls. They talked frequently on the phone and made time for each other whenever they could.
Now that Caitlyn is older, Hannah lets her take the reins on planning their activities. Caitlyn’s interest in helping animals has broadened into a desire to improve the world, Ally noted. For instance, Caitlyn and her Big Sister adopted a street that they clean regularly.
“Caitlyn takes extreme pride in her and Hannah’s service work. It is a way for them to make the world, and themselves, better,” Ally said. Now the two are so comfortable with each other that they don’t always need to talk when they’re together. “Their presence next to each other is enough,” Ally said.
Once a struggling reader, Caitlyn is now on her middle school’s A/B honor roll. She’s a key player on the school soccer team and is active in her church. Becoming interested in babysitting, she chose to take a class that certified her as a sitter who knows CPR and first aid.
“She is counting down the days until she can use those skills with Hannah’s baby,” Ally said.
Hannah has also helped BBBSWNC by connecting the program with UNC Asheville’s observatory, which has sparked a new interest in other Littles. Ally often cites Hannah’s strategies to support a Big struggling to help their own Little.
“Hannah’s success as a Big stems from her love and knowledge of Caitlyn, and her desire to put Caitlyn’s passions, goals, and needs at the forefront of everything she does,” Ally said. “Caitlyn’s success as a scholar, athlete, and person are in part due to the unconditional support that Hannah gives.”