Baking with Denise


Does baking cookies really have the ability to change a life? That is something that Denise asked herself one day. For her former Little Sister Miriah this is exactly what happened.

Does Baking Cookies Really Change A Life?

                 Twenty years.  Seems like such a long time ago now.  Half of my lifetime! Twenty years ago, Jerry Lewis raised over $47 million in his telethon, Aerosmith and Michael Jackson won MTV music awards! And, 20 years ago, I walked into the BBBS office.  Little did I know what was in store for me.  I had always heard of the program, I knew it helped kids.  It was something I thought would be fun!  To be a Big Sister, to hang out with a little girl, play Barbies, bake cookies, go for walks.  I had so many ideas!  And it was something I could do that didn’t require any money. (Thank goodness because I had none ha!!)  But time, I had. 

                 I was matched with my first Little Sister, Shyanne.  She was 6 years old and a great fit for me!!  We hit it off right from the start!  She giggled, and talked, played, talked and giggled some more!!  We played Barbies, baked, walked, jogged, giggled and talked!!  I got to be there to see her first communion, we took advantage of a lot of agency activities.  Then, the dreaded news came.  Shyanne’s mom had decided to move closer to her family, back to North Bay.  It was sad, parting after only one year matched.  But, life moves on. I still wanted to be involved with the agency but was still raw from Shyanne’s move, so I decided to just sit back and just hang out for a bit.

                 I had the opportunity to go on an agency bus trip to the Tim Horton camp in Parry Sound, Ontario with BBBS. It was so cool!  We got to ride in a bus WITH A BATHROOM IN IT!  AND watch A MOVIE while we drove!! Crazy eh??  I was not quite ready to be matched again, but I was still willing to help out when I was needed.  Another step in my BBBS life.  There, I met this 9 year old girl.  She was attached to me right from the start!  I wasn’t looking for another little, but she chose me.  Miriah.  I still remember our first official outing.  September 11th 1995.  I went to her house and we went for a walk in her neighborhood.  She was very quiet, shy.  But she talked.  Not big long answers but she talked.  I was hooked right away, her little laugh, her shy smile, hiding her beautiful face behind her hair.  But there it was.  That connection.  Once again, the baking, walking, crafts, agency activities all started back up again.  Our official match lasted 9 years, until she turned 18. 

       Miriah n Denise Image

                 You don’t know what kind of impact you’re making.  As a Big, you don’t think about it.  The conversations, the secrets, the laughter, the tears.  You just do it.  Build that friendship.  I remember Miriah’s Mom asking me how I did it.  How is it that when she wanted to take her kids out for a walk, it was the last thing in the world that they wanted to do, but when I brought Miriah home from a walk in the woods, she was happy, smiling and excited!?  To this day, I don’t know why.  A walk with her very own friend?  Conversation? 

                 So now, how many people in this room tonight are Bigs?  How many times have you asked yourself, “Am I really making a difference here?” And, if so, how?  What could I possibly be doing?  Baking cookies doesn’t change a life! Well, I am here to tell you that it DOES.

                 20 years later.  Here it is.  I get to see it with my own two eyes.  Miriah and I are both busy with work, school, life.  I sometimes step back and look at our relationship.  Here she is, this woman, a grown up! I got to see her graduate from high school, work herself through college, and get a job at the very agency that her and I were matched at! Miriah, once again, calls me.  She has big news.  She is getting married!  And she wanted to tell me.  She thought of me.  Have I mentioned who Miriah is, besides my “Little Sister”?  She is my friend.  Way past the time we were officially unmatched. Although not as often as we would both like, we still chat, laugh, visit.  We will be sisters forever.  This I know.

                 And now, thanks to the wonders of technology, I have reconnected with Shyanne.  I had always thought of her, wondered where she was, what she was doing.  We wrote back and forth after she moved, but eventually we lost touch.  She was never, ever far from my thoughts though.  Thank goodness for Facebook.  I think she was one of the first people I searched for!  And I found her!   At long last!  I was so amazed that we could find each other once again!  I got to see her again, even though it was only in photos.  I got to see her go on trips, hanging out with friends, growing, learning.  I was invited to her wedding reception in North Bay a couple of years ago, but couldn’t go.  When I found out she was pregnant, there was no way anything was keeping me from her baby shower!  The time was here, our reunion!  What a weekend!  It was like we were always together.  That there was never a separation.  

                 With Miriah, the connection was always there.  I could see it, talk to her, hug her.  It is there for all to see.  But with Shyanne,  I was unsure.  I was nervous!  I mean really, we were matched for one year, 20 years ago. She was 6.  What could she possibly remember?  As we hugged, cried, talked, laughed, there it was.  After all this time.  It is still so overwhelming to me!  That connection.  That special friendship.  Something that right now, I can’t even describe.  And I get to have this very special, unique bond for the rest of my life with not one, but TWO young ladies!  After this reunion, I went straight to Deb’s office and poured my heart out to her! Right then and there, I knew what I did mattered.  With both Miriah and Shyanne.  My heart soars at the thought of it.

                 So, back to the big question that most Bigs have, Did I really make that much of an impact? Did my time make that much of a difference? The answer I can say loudly and with confidence, YES.   If you could see these girls now!  Both of my “little sisters” are grown.  They are happy, healthy, contributing members of society.  The small things that we did together have impacted their lives more than I EVER KNEW!  Who knew that playing Barbies, baking cookies and walking in the woods would change a life.  Guess what?  It does! That connection!  And here’s your living proof!  Shyanne, Miriah, and even me.  Teaching me that fun and happiness don’t need to cost money. 

- Speech by Denise Vyse, Big Sister
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