February 1, 2018
Partner Spotlight: My Big Brother changed my life
Written by Robert Allen. Published with permission from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, a United Way partner program.
I am a 46-year-old man with a wonderful wife and two terrific teenage children. I have worked all of my adult life to be the best person I can be. As a professional patient advocate, my passion is helping people. But things didn't start out this way. Undeniably, I am who I am because a caring young man named Eric decided one day to be a Big Brother.
I grew up in a single-parent home. My mom was (and still is) amazing. She devoted her life to raising my brother John and me, but it was challenging on her own. My dad's life changed, and we were no longer the focus of his everyday life. I felt abandoned by his absence and acted out because of it, undoubtedly heading down a road of self-destruction. My mother thought having a positive male role model in our lives was important. She was right.
When we were 10 years old, she signed us up for our school's Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program, where we were matched with local college students. I remember feeling so excited about having a Big Brother! But the anticipation quickly turned to disappointment when my mentor left the program. Another man was leaving my life. I was devastated. That is, until I got to know Eric Romanoff. He changed my life.
Eric started out as my brother John's mentor, but when he learned about my plight, without hesitation, he offered an unconventional solution. He wanted to be a Big Brother to us both. My heart was full, knowing someone cared that much about me. Eric made time for us separately and together. He listened. He nurtured. He understood and encouraged, but never "fathered" me. I looked up to him. He became the person I wanted to be when I grew up.
When Eric graduated from college, our matches were officially closed, but our friendship continued. He kept us on the right path-away from drugs and alcohol and toward good life decisions. He shared experiences that helped broaden the world as we knew it. He even helped me mend my relationship with my father. And today, working as a successful bank executive in France and traveling the world, Eric still keeps in touch through emails and cards. In my heart, I will always be a "Little" and grateful for my Big Brother.
When you donate to United Way, you are supporting programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine. Thank you.
Pictured: Robert Allen (right) with brother John (left) and their shared Big Brother Eric Romanoff.
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