When Charlie was eight years-old, his little sister passed away after a long battle with a rare disease. Charlie struggled with the grief and instability that this brought to his family. Memories of sirens and ambulances arriving in the middle of the night to take his sister away haunted him. He developed an intense anxiety, and had difficulties with school and personal relationships. Charlie felt alone, confused, and scared, and he craved the connection and support that all children need to grow and achieve more. The future did not look so bright for Charlie… and then he came to Big Brothers Big Sisters and was matched with his mentor, Mark.

Mark was a kind-hearted professional from Calgary who wanted to give back to his community. What he ended up giving Charlie was something he really needed – a stable, supportive relationship.

Mark changed Charlie’s life in ways that no one could have expected. He showed him that safety and consistency can be found, even in the most complicated situations. He taught him about strength, acceptance and resilience. He showed Charlie where to look for optimism when things seemed hopeless.

The days spent together turned into months and months turned into years. Like Charlie, Mark knew he would never be the same person again either. He was inspired, moved by this incredible young person who’d faced such difficulty but still had so much to give.

Five years after first meeting Mark, Charlie would be unrecognizable to those who knew him as a child – at 13, he has grown into a confident, resilient young adult who is excited about his future and the possibility it holds. And Mark, who had been so touched by having Charlie come into his world, has become a life-long ambassador for the same illness that took Charlie’s little sister.

Charlie and Mark will always be part of each other’s lives – nothing can undo the changes they initiated for each other. They truly started something ‘BIG’ – something that continues to be even bigger than them.