An ordinary day on campus quickly turned into a celebration Thursday for one senior at the University of North Texas.
A purple carpet at the entrance of the Willis Library led to bouquets of purple and white balloons tied to a table of gifts where an 11-year-old boy waited for his “big brother” to walk out of class for national “Thank Your Mentor Day.”
UNT senior Jared Broach has been volunteering with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization for about three years, and he said Thursday’s surprise was “shocking.”
“My mom called me and said she was in town for a doctor’s appointment and wanted to see if I could grab lunch,” he said. “Then, on my way to the library, I see her, my dad with a camera around his neck — who isn’t a camera guy — and my grandparents so I instantly knew something was up.”
Before his mentor could make his way to the purple carpet rolled out in his honor, Isaiah — a fifth-grader at Chavez Elementary School in Little Elm — presented Broach with a picture he had drawn on light blue construction paper along with a note that mentioned how appreciative he was of his “big brother.”
Tanya Gordon, Isaiah’s mom, said she took her son out of school early to bring him to campus. The celebration had been in the making for three weeks, she said, but Isaiah didn’t know until last night because she didn’t want him to tell.
According to a press release issued by Big Brothers Big Sisters, Broach is one of more than 200,000 volunteers nationwide that the organization was hoping to recognize during national “Thank Your Mentor Day.”
Gordon, who said she has raised 15 children and has six living at home currently, thinks Big Brothers Big Sisters — the nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network — is needed because it helps children get the one-on-one recognition they deserve.
“He looks forward to his time with Jared,” she said of Broach. “They go out every couple weeks and see movies together, play games and just hang out.”
As the youngest of three boys, Broach, 27, said he didn’t ever have a chance to be a big brother growing up and always thought he would make a good one.
Broach, who plans to graduate this May with a degree in applied arts and sciences, said his first “little” moved to Florida after a year, and he has been paired with Isaiah ever since.
“I had no idea this was coming,” he said. “I didn’t even know this was appreciation day. It’s been a lot of fun and I not only feel better about myself, I have made a good friend [Isaiah] out of it all.”
Gordon said her son had to wait a long time to get paired off with Broach because there aren’t enough male volunteers to go around.
“He had a big sister for a short time and then had to wait for a year and a half before he was assigned to Jared,” she said.
While the day was all about thanking Broach for his time, Isaiah said he couldn’t think of his favorite moment spent with his “big” because there have been so many.
Broach, however, said he is always looking forward to the next visit.
“It’s a very rewarding experience and I look forward to volunteering off and on when I can forever,” he said with his arm wrapped around his “little.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.