Hunzinger Construction Company Project Manager, Ryan O’Toole and his “little brother” Prince, recently celebrated their 3 year “match” anniversary with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee. BBBS held a special anniversary party at Evolution located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward last week to commemorate the successful matches. In addition to ping pong, they played “match bingo” where the “Littles” had to go around the party and ask questions of the other matches and Ryan was amazed watching Prince happily engage people to mark off his bingo card. “His interaction with people is so rewarding because Prince was incredibly shy and reticent when I first met him”, said O’Toole of his little brother.
O’Toole stands out as a community conscious young professional, even in a company where many are active in volunteering and community building efforts. He and his wife took on the responsibility of being a “Big” to this 10 year old boy from Milwaukee’s inner city through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee in 2012 because they wanted to make a difference in a child’s life together. He researched a number of organizations and decided that BBBS was their best fit because the organization is so well run and they have a waiting list of over 500 kids in need of mentors. Every Wednesday, Ryan and Jamie spend time with their “Little”, picking him up after work and doing various activities with him like taking him to Brewer’s games, helping him with homework, biking at the lakefront or ice skating at Red Arrow Park, depending on the season, visiting the Urban Ecology Center or BBBS REACH activities.
Coming out of his shell is not the only change the couple has seen in Prince. “He has been making significant improvement with his preparedness for school and completing his homework assignments and that is also reflected in better grades and reports”, O’Toole continued. “We have been mentoring Prince since the 3rd grade and now that he is in 5th grade, his teachers are really praising him for his growing socializing skills. We feel really good about that, knowing that our work with him is having a positive impact”.
This fall brought a major change in their relationship as Ryan and Jaimie welcomed a son in September. After a very brief hiatus, the couple brought Prince over to their home to meet his newborn “brother”.
Ryan says that Prince has been great with the baby and is excited to have a new little playmate. Prince enjoys going over to the O’Toole’s home and always brings along his book bag. Recently, they have been baking granola bars and other healthy snacks for Prince to take home to his family and bring along to school. Prince is excited for the baby to start eating “real” food so he can help prepare organic baby food with Jamie and feed his new little brother.
For 37 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. Most children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters live in single-parent and low-income families, or households where a parent is incarcerated. As part of the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. Providing a system of ongoing evaluation and support, Big Brothers Big Sisters is proven by independent studies to help families by improving the odds that Littles will perform better in school and avoid violence and illegal activities, and have stronger relationships with their parents and others. The largest affiliate in Wisconsin, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee annually serves more than 1,500 children.