Story by Ryan Kryska
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau
Laura Capello remembers back in the late 1990s when she met a 40-year-old “little,” whose “big” in the Big Brother Big Sister of Central Arizona organization was 80 years old.
The two had met when the little was a preteen and developed such a great relationship that they still talked more than two decades later.
Capello, now president of the Central Arizona organization, said that relationship truly showed her the lasting impact Big Brothers Big Sisters can make on children but also adults.
“His big brother has since passed, but they just became family,” Capello said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”
Capello and company were out Wednesday night at Paul’s Car Wash, a weeklong fundraiser for the Central Arizona organization that has become its biggest support event since Paul Horton, CBS 5 meteorologist, launched it in 2007.
Capello herself is a big and said she has been matched for four years.
“She’s smart, she’s caring, but she needs somebody,” Capello said. “She’s just dealing with challenges that no kid should have to deal with. We're about igniting the potential that is already in these kids. We just need someone to do it.”
Grand Canyon University men’s and women’s basketball teams, the Cheer and Dance teams, the Thundering Heard Pep Band and Thunder himself were out in full force on Wednesday to help raise money for the organization. It’s something that GCU has grown to love being involved in and has opened the eyes of many Lopes student-athletes.
“It seems like an awesome organization that they put on this fundraiser,” said Caleb Holifield, a freshman point guard for the men’s basketball team. “I think mentorship is important. I have mentors in my life that give me advice during tough times and are always there to pick you up when you are down. It’s always good to have a mentor, so the Big Brother Big Sister program is awesome.”
Chelsea Turner, Director of Women’s Basketball Operations, was out supporting an organization that she been a part of in previous communities she worked in. She had been a big three times before moving to Phoenix in July and taking some time off to settle into her new role.
“When I found out about the car wash I thought, ‘Oh, I used to be a big!’” Turner said. “So I think it is a wonderful event. I recommend it to anyone and everyone, and I’ve enjoyed my time doing it. All the staff has always been really nice, and it is just a great organization.”
Turner said she mentored her first little when she was still a senior in high school.
“Some people came up to my school and talked about the program and how you can do school-based or community-based, so I went over to their school one day a week,” she said.
Turner said that after high school she took on another little named Kayla when the first one moved.
“She was in third grade, and we did all kinds of stuff and I worked with basketball there so she would come with me sometimes,” Turner said. “One time we just took the golf cart and just drove around in the parking lot and she loved that.
“I love Big Brothers Big Sisters because I like mentoring and helping out where I can. She was in a house with a grandparent and six other kids, so to get that mentoring and one-on-one time and just to try to help out wherever I could, teach her right from wrong, help her with her kids, behavior, and just help her through those things. I just always hope that when I leave or when I depart that she will have learned something from me.”
Capello said that the Central Arizona organization has about 1,000 matches, but with a population of nearly 5 million in the county, that’s not enough.
“This event lets us raise awareness for the need and lets people know that being a mentor is not as daunting as some may think,” Capello said. “We all need someone to help motivate us and tell us they see potential in us, so that’s what we are here for.”